PRESIDENT Rodrigo Duterte said Monday that offensive operations against Islamic State-affiliated fighters in the conflict-torn Marawi City will continue until the last terrorist is "taken out."
"Marawi, I will finish it. I am not joking, [it will not stop] until the last terrorist is taken out. The war will continue," Duterte said at the press conference that followed after he delivered his second State of the Nation Address held at Batasan Pambansa in Quezon City.
The martial law in Mindanao has been extended until December 31 after the military failed to liberate Marawi City in 60 days.
As of July 19, the government reported that there have been 421 Islamist fighters, 99 government troops, and 45 civilians slain in the battle between security personnel and extremists.
The President said that the number of individuals being held hostage by the extremist group in Marawi City, which was pegged at 300, was delaying the objective of the security forces to retake the besieged city.
He said he could not risk the lives of the innocent civilians who were affected by the armed conflict in Marawi City.
"There are 300 people held hostage. That is what is delaying. I said, 'Do not assault and if possible, we just whip it out,'" Duterte said.
"The hostages, whether they are really Moro o Kristiayno. I do not want these innocents to be slaughtered. Let's be careful. Let's wait. [We need [patience because we do not want the innocents slaughtered]," he added.
Duterte also reiterated that he was dismayed that some Maranaos allowed the Islamist gunmen to wreak havoc and destroy Marawi City.
"I'm blaming Maranaos who are in cahoots the terrorists, because obviously, the stockpile was there for so long a time," he said. (SunStar Philippines)