Air strikes will continue in Marawi City as government troops hustle to flush out an estimated 80 terrorists still holed up in the inner enclaves of the Islamic city, a military official said Saturday.
"Ang air asset ay isang advantage na kailangan natin gawin to neutralize sniper and defensive positions of the local terrorist group. Kung nag-occupy sila ng high rise building, kailangan mas mataas tayo," Lt. Col. Jo-ar Herrera, Task Force Marawi spokesperson, said in a press conference in Marawi City.
"Kaya ginagamit ang arsenal na ito to defeat the enemy as soon as possible," Herrera said.
Residents who fled from the war zone have been pleading for the military to halt air assaults saying it would further damage the city, once considered Lanao del Sur's center of commerce.
But Herrera said air assets have to be utilized to protect ground troops entering the "main battle area," where extremists are occupying strategic positions.
"Abdullah (Maute) is still in command of the remaining terrorists. Merong foreign fighters pa rin inside the main battle area. We intend to protect our soldiers who are relentlessly moving towards the center of gravity," Herrera said, citing one of the Maute siblings known to lead the Islamic State-linked terror group.
Marawi Crisis Management Committee spokesperson Zia Alonto Adiong assured Marawi residents that the government is committed to fund rehabilitation efforts in the city as soon as the siege ends.
"Ang commitment nila is not (just) to rehabilitate Marawi City, but to make Marawi City better than its old form," Adiong said.
Aside from launching air strikes, the military strengthened its defenses along the Lanao Lake, a key route to and from Marawi city, by partnering with the local government and communities along the waterway, Herrera added.
The military spokesperson said troops have been intensifying ground operations in a bid to rescue some 300 civilians still trapped in the conflict zone.
As of July 7, 366 terrorists, 87 government troops, and 39 civilians
have been killed in the nearly two-month long battle. More than 300,000 residents have meanwhile fled Marawi City and nearby areas due to the firefights.
Mindanao remains under martial law since clashes between state troops and terrorists erupted on May 23.
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