The United States has condemned the recent violence committed by Islamic State-linked militants in Marawi City in Mindanao, assuring the Philippines of its continuous support and assistance toward counterterrorism measures.
“These cowardly terrorists killed Philippine law enforcement officials and endangered the lives of innocent citizens,” U.S. press secretary Sean Spicer said in a statement released on Thursday, May 25.
Since Tuesday, May 23, there has been an ongoing clash between the government troops and local militants identified as members of the Maute group, believed to have pledged allegiance to IS in 2015.
This prompted Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte to declare martial law in Mindanao in the evening of the same day.
“The United States condemns the recent violence perpetrated by an ISIS-linked terrorist group in the southern Philippines,” Spicer said.
As a “proud ally,” the U.S. also vowed to continue “to provide support and assistance to Philippine counterterrorism efforts.”
“We will continue to work with the Philippines to address shared threats to the peace and security of our countries,” Spicer added.
As of Friday, May 26, the death toll in connection with Marawi attack has reached to 44.
The Western Mindanao Command (Westmincom) confirmed that among of those who were killed include 31 Maute terrorists, 11 soldiers, and two police officers.
Hailing fallen government troopers, Westmincom commander Lieutenant General Carlito Galvez Jr. said, “They made the ultimate sacrifice to ensure that the city (of Marawi) will be cleared from terror threat and immediately restore normalcy in that part of Mindanao.”
Galvez also assured the public that the government forces “will exhaust all efforts to crush the remaining Maute members so that the people of Marawi City can go back to their homes the soonest.”
“We once more call on the people in the community to join us fight terrorism. Provide your security forces with information that will contribute to the neutralization of these agents of deaths and destruction,” Galvez added.
Amid the skirmishes, militants have occupied several establishments in Marawi City, trapping civilians in the areas.
Other facilities, such as St. Mary’s Church, Ninoy Aquino School, and Dansalan College, were torched. Several teachers, a priest and about a dozen parishioners were also reportedly taken as hostages.
While the government was able to reclaim some previously Maute-occupied areas and rescue trapped civilians, the Armed Forces said clearing operations are still ongoing.
“Our troops are doing deliberate operations in the areas we believe are still occupied or infested with the terrorists’ presence,” Army’s 1st Infantry Division Commander Brig. Gen. Rolando Bautista said.
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