ISIL linked leader trapped, heavy Philippine fighting
The top leader of a Daesh-linked militant group, on the U.S. list of "Most Wanted Terrorists", has been cornered by troops as heavy fighting continued Saturday in the troubled city of Marawi.
"A security cordon has been thrown around the remaining terrorist-held area in the city to keep reinforcements from reaching the remaining militants and to confine them on one place," Brawner added.
Radio handheld reports gathered from the area where the fighting is ongoing say unexploded ordinance and liquefied petrolium gas tanks are being used by Abu Sayyaf and Maute against the advancing troops in the battle.
The military also said at least 80 more buildings needed to be cleared inside the shrinking main battle area – now measuring about three hectares.
"The sustained military operation against the militants has taken its toll on the terrorists," he said.
The terrorists have fought the troops for nearly five months now. They have also maximized their use of more improvized bombs and booby traps along the tracks of soldiers – as they put up a fierce resistance.
Using K9 dogs, soldiers retrieved 28 dead bodies of militants, several improvised explosive devices and dozens of unexploded ordinances according to Brawner.
The militants death toll increased to 813 after two more militants were killed last week. The government's death toll is 160 since the fighting started.
Preventing the troops from employing heavy military ground bombardment and airstrikes on the terrorists was the presence of hostages and the non-combatant relatives of the gunmen.
“Our main consideration is the safety of the hostages and the non-combatants,” Brawner said.
The military said it was confident that it could completely retake the city by Sunday but added that this was not a deadline per se as lives are at stake here.
"The lives of the soldiers and the hostages may be unnecessarily placed in danger if we rush," Brawner was quoted saying.
“We will neutralize them, meaning either they are captured or they surrender,” he said.