Strategic Mapandi Bridge captured in Marawi. Troops, armaments move freely: Padilla. Focus on salvaging lives of hostages: Duterte.

Mapandi bridge in AFP control.

PICS: Inquirer.,et

PICS: Inquirer.,et

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In the long drawn out siege of Marawi that started on May 23, the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) seem to be on the verge of declaring victory. The past 10 weeks have witnessed enough deaths, destruction and misery.
Marawi was once a vibrant, bustling albeit a bit laidback city; it is difficult to recognize it. Military and civic authorities who have been in the midst of the operations say that end is quite near.
The Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) could not make inroads initially since the invaders were well entrenched. They were heavily armed and took hostages who they used as human shields.
In addition, the Islamic State linked terrorists had enough time to set up proper roadblocks to impede the troops.
But, it was only a matter of time.
In spite of heavy casualties, the soldiers stuck to their task and made progress though it was painfully slow. The United States Armed Forces were planning and supervising each aspect of the assault.
Now, the AFP is in control of a bridge that was the last hurdle. However, the troops don’t want to rush the final attack since the lives hostages are at risk. The emphasis is now on trying to rescue as many hostages as possible.
Military spokesman Brig. Gen. Restituto Padilla explained that they captured the bridge last week. Mapandi Bridge is on an arterial road which provides access to the interior business district of Marawi.
It is in this commercial hub that the militants hide; there may be up to 60 militants holed up. But, they also have an estimated 100 hostages whose welfare is the government’s worry before the final assault.
Therefore, Padilla suggested that the final push might take some time. Besides, it will be a last resort if the lives of the hostages came under threat.
Consequently, he addressed a press conference in Manila to announce that they hold the Mapandi Bridge over Agus River. With his, there is no impediment to the free movement of men or material, he said.
With ground zero in our sights, we want to try and save innocent lives as far as possible, Padilla announced. This is in compliance to the orders of President Duterte who wants to preserve the lives of hostages.
We may sacrifice time but not the lives of hostages since two months have already elapsed, the President declared. Almost 700 lives have been lost including about 50 civilians, Padilla said.
In addition, there was another grave possibility according to Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana. The holed up militants might use some hostages as suicide bombers since they are anyway going to die.
Therefore, the military authorities have cautioned troops to keep in mind this possibility in view of the desperation of the militants.
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Umrao Singh
Written for: Lars-Magnus Carlsson.
Tuesday, August 01, 2017