THE top official of the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) said the fighting in Marawi City will be over in "a matter of days" and said government forces continue to gain ground against Isis-inspired extremists.
AFP chief-of-staff General Eduardo Año made the assessment despite acknowledging that about 50 to 60 of the enemy still remains and that the extremists are positioned in over 200 structures.
Año was in Cagayan de Oro City on Friday, September 22, to pin wounded personnel medals and distribute cash aids to some 41 wounded soldiers recuperating at the Camp Evangelista Station Hospital in Barangay Patag.
"When we say a matter of days na lang ibig sabihin mabilis na lang ‘to. Makikita naman sa development ng operation natin. Nakuha na nating key and vital installations na hawak nila," Año said.
But Año reminded government forces to remain cautious and alert against the Maute snipers to avoid incurring more casualties.
Año also told the soldiers to be more careful as the extremists have resorted to making hostages wear Maute-like clothing and having them bear arms.
The AFP's top official said following the rescue of Fr. Chito Suganob and another civilian, three more hostages were rescued alive the other night. He said the enemy has about 40 more civilians hostages.
"Mga 200 plus na lang na structures natitira pero konti na lang yun kasi sa start 1,000 yan at konti na lang resistance di katulad ng dati pero syempre binabantayan pa din natin ang mga snipers para di tayo magkaroon ng casualties," Año said.
"Mga 40 pa yung hostages. Yung iba kasi dyan pinagsusuot ng Maute uniform binigyan ng baril at inindoctrinate kaya maingat tayo baka madamay di totoong kalaban," Año added.
The military chief said enemies who would want surrender would be treated reasonably.
"If gusto nila mag-surrender walang problema they just drop their guns ang importante lang naka-brief sila at walang IED sa katawan at immediately aalagaan natin sila at bibigyan ng protection," Año said.
"Sa ngayon, ang regular fighters masasabi nating nasa 50 to 60 at yung binihisan mga 40 yun so sabihin nating mga 90 to 100 na lang," Año added.
Año said the military is finishing off the enemy and there is no way that the terrorists could get augmentation from the outside.
As of Friday, September 22, a total of 151 government soldiers were killed and 1,755 were wounded. The number of extremists killed is now at 689. Some 700 firearms have been recovered by the government.
"Walang makakapasok kasi sealed off na natin lalo na ang (Lanao) Lake at ayaw din natin makatakas yung mga terrorists," Año said.