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Asean, int’l partners’ aid in Marawi lauded

President Rodrigo Duterte yesterday thanked Asean member-states and other international partners for their assistance in the recently-concluded campaign against the Maute terrorists in Marawi City.

“Our Asean brothers provided support by sending relief items for the benefit of the internally displaced persons while others provided valuable assistance and bolstered our military campaign,” the Chief Executive said in his speech opening the 31st Asean Summit at the Philippine International Convention Center.
Fighting broke out in the city after government troops tried to arrest Abu Sayyaf leader Isnilon Hapilon and his cohorts last May 23. It officially ended on October 23 after military units have neutralized Hapilon and Omar Maute, one of the co-founders of the terror group.
“Less than a month ago, Philippine government forces liberated the city of Marawi from terrorist groups who pledged allegiance to the Islamic State. Resolute, we are now in the process of helping people back on their feet to reclaim their lives,” the Chief Executive stressed.

“We thank our international partners for providing assistance in dealing with the situation in Marawi City,” he added.
The five-month battle claimed the lives of more than 1,100 people including 165 troops, displaced 400,000 residents and reduced large parts of the city to rubble.
Maute firearms recovered
Meanwhile, at least 30 firearms, mostly high-powered, were discovered from Lake Lanao by government security forces as clearing operations in Marawi City continue, the military yesterday said.
Col. Romeo Brawner, deputy commander of Joint Task Force Ranao, said the firearms were believed to have been thrown into the lake by Islamic State-inspired terrorists during the final phase of the siege.
“It is believed that the terrorists, during the last hours of the firefight when they have smelled defeat and when they were about to make their final escape, threw their weapons into the lake,” he added.
“As if noontime yesterday (Sunday), 30 firearms had already been recovered, and it is assumed that more firearms are still under the lake. Search operations will continue today (Monday),” he added.
The discovery of the firearms came after joint forces of the 55th Infantry Battalion, Scout Ranger Class 202, 1st Scout Ranger Battalion, civil-military operations personnel, military engineers, mechanized units, EOD Personnel and waterborne units of 12th Division Reconnaissance Company and 6th Special Forces Battalion conducted search and clearing operations at Lake Lanao, especially near the Bandaringin Mosque, Barangay Marinaut, Marawi City.
Brawner said during the search, one of the members of the search teams saw one weapon being visible from the surface of the lake and dove down to get it.
The other groups participated in the search, discovering the rest of the firearms in succession.
Bandaringin Mosque was among the last structures that the terrorists held onto as they made a defiant stand against the military’s onslaught.
Apart from the ongoing clearing operations, government security forces are still hunting down terrorist stragglers in Marawi City.
Captured Indonesian terrorist Muhammad Ilham Syahputra claimed that there were still 39 IS-inspired terrorists holed up in Marawi City.
Brawner said the recovery of the firearms bolstered their beliefs that the terrorists threw their weapons into the lake during the last hours of the firefight when they already smell defeat and when they were about to make their final escape.
The water-borne operations followed the military’s declaration over the weekend that all streets and bridges that were either occupied by the terrorists or have been designated as battle grounds during the fighting in the city, have been cleared of explosives and debris.
The clearing operations were in preparation for the full-blast rehabilitation of the war-damaged Marawi.
At least 500 military engineers were taking part in the roadside clearing. All of the major access roads and bridges in Marawi City had already been cleared by the troops. PNA

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