AFP: Almost 1,500 civilians rescued, at least 500 still trapped in Marawi City

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  • AFP estimates Maute group members down to 100 fighters in 3 barangays
  • AFP: Maute hiding in mosques, madrasahs
  • DSWD: Over 200,000 displaced in Marawi crisis
  • AFP says clash in Marawi was planned based on evidence
  • AFP calls on Maute to surrender

Metro Manila (CNN Philippines, June 5) — At least 500 civilians are still trapped in ground zero of the Marawi crisis, the military said on Monday.

"If we rely on the [local government unit's] count, there are about 500 to 600 more still trapped, still there and low on food, low on water," Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) spokesperson Brigadier General Restituto Padilla told CNN Philippines' The Source.

According to Padilla, the military has rescued a total of 1,467 civilians from the Marawi City government's estimation of 2,000 trapped in the interior of the city.

His comment comes after a humanitarian pause from 8 a.m. to 12 p.m. on Sunday, during which the military rescued almost 300 civilians caught in the crossfire between the government and Islamic State (ISIS)-inspired Maute group forces.

"It was so nice to hear yesterday, following four hours of a humanitarian pause, that 179 residents of Marawi were rescued safely and evacuated to safer areas," said Padilla. "Earlier that day, [at] about 6:00, we were also able to rescue about 95 more who were in the Dansalan area near the university."

The crisis in Marawi City broke out on May 23 after members of the Maute group went head to head with government troops. According to the Department of Social Welfare and Development, the clash displaced 42,998 families or 212,668 persons, as of Monday.

According to AFP figures released on Sunday, 38 soldiers have been killed in action, including 10 who died in a botched government airstrike. Padilla said 20 civilians had been killed "because of the atrocities committed by this group," while around 120 members of the Maute group have been killed.

Based on a previous count, the military estimated that the Maute had around a hundred fighters left, 40 of whom it said are foreign.

They have since retreated into barangays with mosques and Arabic schools called madrasahs in order "to rally around these places of religious worship."

"The areas that are continually held up by the Maute-Daesh Group are in about two or three barangays and we are addressing this," said Padilla. "The compounding problem now lies on the continued use of... mosques and madrasahs as safe havens."

Padilla emphasized that the AFP prioritized civilian safety and were instructed to apply military force if there were still residents in the area.

Planned attack

The AFP also revealed that in the buildings they recovered from the Maute group, they left behind materials such as telephones and documents indicating that the incident was planned.

"There are clear indications that the planning happened even way before May 22 or May 23, when we received information on the location of Isnilon Hapilon and his cohorts," said Padilla.

Hapilon is the leader of another terrorist group, the Abu Sayyaf, whom the military planned to catch in an operation dated May 23. The AFP previously said that Maute members entering Marawi was a planned diversion from the operation.

Hapilon is believed to have been tapped as the leader of an ISIS caliphate in Southeast Asia.

Padilla added the Maute occupation of Marawi was "planned in a sense that they had time to put in resources" and "they were able to bring in people that they needed."

He added that the military still believed Hapilon is still in Marawi, which military speculates is "the reason for the stiff resistance."

President Rodrigo Duterte on Monday offered a ₱10 million bounty for Hapilon, said the Armed Forces. This on top of the ₱7.4 million standing bounty from the Philippine government and the $5 million bounty offered by the United States government. Duterte also offered a P5 million bounty each for the two Maute brothers, Abdullah and Omar.

Call to surrender

The AFP also called on members of the group to surrender to state forces.

"We also call on them to really reconsider surrendering while there's still time and while there's an opportunity," said Padilla. "The government will be unmerciful if ever they don't consider the surrender request."

Padilla revealed that there was a number of members who already surrendered and were in the custody of the AFP.

"They have provided very valuable intelligence," he said. "This I think can work in their favour once they face the courts."