DAVAO CITY, Philippines – The Armed Forces of the Philippines said ISIS-linked Maute group are utilizing children and minors to fight government ground forces as the Marawi crisis now enters on its seventh week.
“We continuously get disturbing narratives from escapees that children, as well as hostages, are being employed in the firefight,” Brig. Gen. Restituto Padilla, Jr., spokesperson of the Armed Forces of the Philippines told reporters during the regular Mindanao Hour press briefing in Malacañang on Monday, July 10.
Padilla said ground forces are doing their best to avoid any casualty among the reported children being utilized as fighters by the Maute.
“But if in the event that they are armed and they bear arms and are involved in the fighting, there’s nothing much that we can do. Similarly, with the hostages who are being forced,” he clarified.
Padilla did not specify if narratives from rescued civilians also indicated the range of ages of children now being used by Mautes as fighters.
As of July 9, the Joint Task Force Marawi reported that 39 civilians were killed in Marawi while 1,723 were already rescued by government forces with the support of the local government unit and rescue teams.
Eighty-nine government troopers were also killed since the Marawi siege broke out; 379 of the Maute members died, and 451 of their firearms were recovered.
“Our efforts on the ground are also focused on rescuing civilians who are still trapped. And there are still quite a number, especially elderly who are monitored to still be in the area and we will seek to rescue them,” Padilla said.
He reiterated that around 80 to 100 Maute members are still remaining inside the conflict zones in Marawi.
Included in the remaining numbers of terrorists are the reported armed children and hostages forced to fight the government troopers, Padilla added.
Padilla also told reporters that the is now finalizing the preparation for deployment of army engineers that will be supported by the engineering units of the Philippine Navy and Philippine Air Force to undertake the rehabilitation efforts of the government in Marawi.
“Our soldier engineers are well-experienced to undertake projects in conflict areas because they have been involved in nationwide infrastructure projects, especially during conflict events, like in Mamasapano, Maguindanao,” Padilla said.
The soldier engineers are part of the commitment of the government and the AFP to help commitment in helping our Muslim brothers immediately following these conflicts, he added.
The government also claimed that the continuing military offensives inside Marawi is gaining headway and the AFP is looking forward and hoping to end the crisis the soonest possible time. (davaotoday.com)