Philippines: Foreign-looking fighter among Marawi dead
03 Oct 2017 - 13:53
By Roy Ramos
ZAMBOANGA CITY, Philippines (AA) – A foreign-looking fighter was among the 40 bodies recovered recently from war-torn Marawi city that were subjected to a post-mortem examination Monday.
"There was one cadaver among the retrieved last week...One of them was a foreign-looking person," said Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao assemblyman Zia Alonto Adiong as quoted by GMA News.
Local media spotted several U.S. forensic examiners who joined local police conducting the examination in search of wanted foreign Daesh fighters and to confirm whether the leaders of the Maute group, who were reportedly killed in the battle, were among the bodies recovered. The battle is now in its 134th day.
Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana confirmed foreign experts’ participation and said the U.S. is interested because among the fighters in Marawi are those on its most wanted list of terrorists.
"They have reward money for some of them like Isnilon [Hapilon], which has a $5 million (price) tag," Lorenzana said as quoted by Philippine-based online news portal Rappler.
Armed Forces Western Mindanao Command chief Lieutenant General Carlito Galvez said the DNA samples will be checked using Washington’s database of foreign fighters.
A hostage recently rescued from the militants said he saw at least 11 foreign fighters in the battle zone in Marawi during his captivity - seven Indonesians who were mostly bombers and three Malaysians and one Arab who were frontline fighters.
Aside from dead bodies, troops also retrieved communication devices from the former militant strongholds including radios, chargers, cellular phones, laptops and video cameras – items which will be investigated and used as evidence against the Daesh-linked militants.
The long-drawn battle in Marawi, which erupted May 23 when the Maute and Abu Sayyaf militant groups launched an attack on the city following the botched arrest of high-value terrorist Isnilon Hapilon, has left at least 950 dead, mostly militants.
As troops continue to advance in the battle area, the military says there is diminishing resistance from the terrorists.
"They are desperate. They are running out of food and water, medicine and ammunition...This week is very critical according to our ground commanders," said Colonel Romeo Brawner, deputy commander of Joint Task Force Ranao.
"We are convincing the Maute to surrender. We're also convincing them to release their hostages, but we also have an effort to convince the hostages to try to escape," he added.
While Philippine troops want to end the crisis soon, saving lives is still a priority, including those of the militants.
The military said they prefer to capture the fighters alive so they can gather information from them.