Headlines Skinning Left, pagematch: 1, sectionmatch: 1
Headlines ( Leaderboard Top ), pagematch: 1, sectionmatch: 1

AFP starts Marawi pullout

Johan Peralta waves a Philippine flag as troops, one of the first battalions to be deployed to Marawi, arrive to a hero’s welcome at Villamor Air Base in Pasay City yesterday. AP
 

ZAMBOANGA CITY, Philippines — Amid sporadic gunfire, the military began withdrawing forces from Marawi City yesterday, giving a battalion of troops a joyful sendoff following the successful mission to defeat Islamic State-linked Maute extremists.

The Army’s 1st Infantry Battalion (1IB) was the first to pull out from war-torn Marawi after nearly five months of urban warfare that often involved close quarters combat, vastly different from the jungle warfare for which they were trained.

They were among the first batch of government troops that fought the Maute terrorists in the early stage of the siege in late May.

Sporadic fighting continued in the city even as the 1IB troops looked forward to a respite from the desolate war scene of smoldering buildings and houses.

The troops led by Lt. Col. Christopher Tampus said the war in Marawi was their most difficult mission.

Even as Tampus and his men were preparing to pull out, other military units pressed their assault against the militants.

Headlines ( Article MRec ), pagematch: 1, sectionmatch: 1

Officers used loudspeakers to urge the militants, many of them positioned in a bullet-pocked two-story building, to surrender. The building stands on a pier by the lake near a large gunfire-scarred welcome sign that says “I (love) Marawi.”

Troops from the Army’s 15th Scout Ranger Company rescued 10 more hostages yesterday and took 11 other individuals for questioning.

Officials said they have to determine if they were hostages or civilian sympathizers or supporters of the Maute group.

The military said there were about 20 civilian hostages among an estimated 20 fighters still holding out with 39 of their family members.

President Duterte visited the Islamic city on Tuesday and announced its liberation, sparking hopes that hundreds of thousands of residents could begin returning home.

The speed of their return, however, will depend on how quickly the city is declared safe and free of militants.

The President made the visit a day after the key leaders of the siege, Abu Sayyaf leader Isnilon Hapilon and Omarkhayam Maute, were killed in a gunbattle.

Their deaths were the turning point that partly convinced Duterte that he could declare Marawi liberated from the Maute, officials said.

Volunteers and displaced residents have begun a government-led cleanup in neighborhoods that were declared safe. Power has been restored in more than half of the lakeside city, along with water supply, officials said.

Western Mindanao Command (Westmincom) chief Lt. Gen. Carlito Galvez Jr. led the sendoff ceremony and gave awards to the officers and men of the 1IB.

Galvez awarded the Silver Cross Medals to Tampus and the three company commanders of the 1IB during the ceremony held at Joint Task Force Ranao camp.

“Maintain the highest dignity of a soldier. As much as we want to have you here, we need to let you go. Our oath is to serve the people and maintain the integrity of our country,” Galvez told the troops.

Troops of the 1IB led the successful rescue of 34 hostages from the Maute terrorists. The military had rescued a total of 1,761 civilians since the fighting broke out in Marawi on May 23.

Galvez thanked the troops for their service during the sendoff formation amidst a drizzle yesterday morning.

“I am so proud of you,” Galvez said, choking as he spoke.

Tampus, for his part, presented the complete report of their mission accomplishment to Galvez and Maj. Gen. Danilo Pamonag, commander of the Joint Task Force Marawi.

Before departure, Tampus ordered his troops to do a “shakedown inspection” by stripping off their equipment and personal belongings in a gesture to show that no one among his men took “souvenirs” and booty from the battle scene.

The troops are to return to their headquarters in Tanay, Rizal today for a brief rest before undergoing training as part of the augmentation force to secure the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) summit in November. 

Assessment

The pullout in Marawi signified the confidence of the military that the threat of the IS in the country has diminished after its key leaders were taken out of play.

With the government victory over the Maute group, Armed Forces spokesman Maj. Gen. Restituto Padilla said the Philippines has made a global contribution to the fall of the IS in the Middle East and other parts of the world.

“We see that their influence will continue to wane and their ability to put up sizable forces to control and gain hold of territories will almost be nil because of these events,” Padilla said in a press briefing at Malacañang yesterday.

While IS-inspired groups such as the Maute remain a threat, Padilla said they have been diminished with the killing of key leaders.

“So by and large, there still remains a threat from this group, but not in the magnitude that we have seen in the Middle East nor in the scale by which we have confronted Marawi. This is our assessment,” he said.

Padilla said there would be no letup in the military campaign against homegrown terror groups used by IS to propagate Islamic radicalism in southern Philippines.

“But the most dangerous thing here that may come out is, their remaining network, which may consist of as few as one or two, may still impose a degree of threat in many parts of the world, not only in the Philippines,” Padilla said.

“And you have seen things happening in Europe, Great Britain, regarding lone wolf type attacks. And these are the kind of threats that may come out. So it is imperative that we all still continue to work together.” – With Christina Mendez, AP

Headlines ( Article MRec ), pagematch: 1, sectionmatch: 1
  • Follow Us:
Healines Skinning Right, pagematch: 1, sectionmatch: 1