By FRANCIS T. WAKEFIELD
Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana Monday expressed fear that the ISIS-inspired Maute terror group might use their civilian hostages as “suicide bombers” out of desperation.
Lorenzana made the remark after the National Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Council (NDRRMC) through the Office of Civil Defense (OCD) held the National Disaster Resilience Month (NDRM) 2017 closing ceremony during the Monday Flag Raising at the GHQ Canopy, Camp Aguinaldo, Quezon City.
The defense secretary said the Maute terrorists, whose number he said has already dwindled to about 30 to 40 fighters, are using their hostages as human shields as reported by the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) Joint Task Force Marawi.
“Ngayon nakikita nila parang ginagawa na nilang shield yung mga civilian hostages (They are looking at them using the civilian hostages as human shields),” Lorenzana said in an interview.
As this developed, the number of terrorists killed as of 7 p.m. Sunday is 491. On the government side, those killed in action is 114.
“Hindi pa natin sigurado kung gagawin nilang pang suicide bombing nila yung mga sibilyan, hindi natin alam. Iyun ang isang kinakatakutan ng mga sundalo, baka palabasin nila yung mga sibilyan pero meron palang mga bomba,” added Lorenzana.
Lorenzana said although they estimate that the number of Maute fighters remaining in Marawi City is about 30 to 40 only, these are the good fighters.
The Defense secretary added that they are looking at the possibility that the remaining civilians trapped or taken as hostages by the terrorists are only about 30.
As this developed, Lorenzana said that they are currently on post-disaster assessment in war-torn Marawi City, 70 days since the siege started.
The rehabilitation of Marawi City forms part of the government initiative Task Force Bangon Marawi.
Meantime, aleast 25 soldiers currently fighting in Marawi City were felled not by bullets but by sickness, particularly dengue fever, typhoid fever, and diarrhea due to the poor environmental condition in the war-torn city.
Captain Jo-Ann Petinglay, spokesperson of the Armed Forces of the Philippines-Western Mindanao Command (AFP-WestMinCom) and Joint Task Force Marawi on Sunday said that at least 25 soldiers got sick and were affected either by dengue, typhoid, diarrhea while fighting the Maute terrorists.
Petinglay said that after two months of fighting, the carcasses of dead dogs, pets, and various livestock are left on the ground to flies and these have contributed to the poor environmental condition.
“Siyempre kung nasa bakbakan ka hindi mo alam minsan, nakaka-inom ka na ng hindi malinis. So ibig sabihin bago bumalik yung residents dun sa area nila kailangan muna mag fumigation,” Petinglay said.
Petinglay said most of those who got sick have already been treated and have returned to the battle field.
The spreading of diseases, Petinglay adds, is just one of the reasons why, it is not yet safe for thousands of residents to stream back into the city.