The Daily Manila Shimbun


(UPDATE) Military retakes terrorists’ “safe haven” in Marawi

August 25, 2017

The Armed Forces of the Philippines has retaken the Grand Mosque, which served as the "safe haven" of the Islamic State-inspired Maute Terror Group for about three months in the war-torn Marawi City, a military spokesman said on Friday.

While the government troopers have retaken the Grand Mosque, there were no traces as to where Isnilon Hapilon, the anointed IS leader in Southeast Asia, and other "about 40-plus or less" terrorists and their "about 30" hostages have gone, Brig. Gen. Restituto Padilla Jr. said during the "Mindanao Hour" briefing in Malacanang.

He said it took a month before the military was able to get back the mosque, bringing the main battle area to half a square kilometer grid.

"Well, the enemies’ world is getting smaller. Definitely, they used the Grand Mosque as a safe haven previously," Padilla said.

"So for almost a month, we took over or tried to get all the facilities around the Grand Mosque in an envelopmental approach. It was not a frontal attack, but an envelopmental approach that targeted all nearby installations around the Grand Mosque so that we can constrict it," Padilla said.

He said the soldiers did not assault the Grand Mosque to preserve it, being the biggest and it is "symbolic of the Islamic nature of the city itself because of its prominence.

"And if you will recall, we made statements before that we would not target the mosque in the area. So that our concept and the Chief of Staff’s idea on the matter is we will need the Grand Mosque to rally and to enlighten our citizens in Maranao, our kababayans," Padilla said.

"Because if you will recall, in Mosul, the terrorist or the Daesh blew up the Grand Mosque there. And it’s a very historical place. We’re not going to do that, and we needed this to have something for our Maranao brothers and sisters to go to after everything is done," he explained.

Asked if anyone from the enemy side was arrested or killed, he said, "I don’t believe there was any recovery of any bodies. There was resistance and we were able to quell the resistance."

He noted that in the process of retaking the Grand Mosque, three soldiers were hurt.

Padilla could not say where Hapilon and the other terrorists could be.

"How I wish I can tell you. I don't have any detail on that. Although we know that they are still inside," he said, adding that clearing operation has been ongoing and there was no complete report yet regarding the retaking of the Grand Mosque.

The terrorists attacked and started occupying Marawi on May 23, prompting President Rodrigo Duterte to declare martial law in the whole of Mindanao.

Padilla could not say yet when the military could completely clear Marawi of the terrorists who could have gone hiding in the other smaller mosques in Marawi. Celerina Monte/DMS