ABOUT 120 hostages were rescued, as government troops regained control of some of the areas occupied by the Maute terror group in Marawi City, Lanao del Sur.

The rescue came as the troops continue to advance to flush out the remaining members of the Maute group, the Western Mindanao Command (Wesmincom) said.

Wesmincom Commander Carlito Galvez Jr. said Thursday, May 25, that 78 of the 120 hostages were rescued from the government-owned Amai Pakpak Hospital. They consist of 21 hospital staffs, eight patients, and 49 construction workers.

Galvez said the members of the Maute group brought two wounded companions for treatment at the Amai Pakpak hospital on Tuesday.

“On the process, they held captives 78 people in the hospital,” Galvez said.

He said the troops have retaken the Amai Pakpak hospital around 3 p.m. Wednesday as they continue to advance forward.

The Wesmincom commander said the remaining 42 rescued hostages were teachers who were trapped inside the campus of the Dansalan College. The Maute group burned a building of the school.

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Five soldiers were killed while 31 others were wounded, Galvez said, as they ensure that the civilians will be brought to safety in the course of the rescue operations.

The Maute group members have also killed two policemen and a security guard.

As of 6 p.m. Wednesday, Galvez said 13 Maute members were killed. Of the total, the troops recovered the remains of the two slain Maute followers.

The government forces recovered an M-16 Armalite rifle and a cache of bomb-making components from the safe house of the Maute group.

Galvez pointed out, without giving names, that there are politicians who are harboring the Maute group followers.

“Many people in Marawi (City) and in other areas are denying the presence of a looming terrorism threat in their communities. Sadly, we even received reports that there were even politicians supporting the group in some way,” Galvez said.

He said terrorism needed to be eliminated and completely destroyed “because if left to thrive, it will soon poison our communities and take our freedom and our precious lives away from us.”

“We are therefore calling on all citizens not only those in Marawi (City) but also in other areas of Mindanao to join us in the fight. We have to make noise and disallow these terrorist to destroy our communities. Let us all make a strong stance against this menace before it gets us,” Galvez added.

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The firefight started on Tuesday afternoon, May 23, when joint military and police forces raided the hideout of Abu Sayyaf leader Isnilon Hapilon, who is being protected by the Maute group.

The clash escalated to four villages in Marawi City as the bandits occupied several establishments and held people hostage to divert to focused of the government fores.

Galvez said joint military and police personnel are facilitating the safe and speedy passage, as hundreds of people from Marawi City flee to nearby Iligan City.

He added that safety and inspections procedures have been adopted to prevent any member of the Maute group to mix up with the fleeing residents to escape. (SunStar Philippines)