MALACAÑANG welcomed Thursday the rescue of around 17 hostages of Maute terrorist group in war-stricken Marawi City.
In a statement, Presidential Spokesperson Ernesto Abella said the safe rescue of Maute captives was an indication that the state forces tasked to flush out terrorists are near from liberating Marawi City.
"Government troops have successfully rescued 17 Maute hostages. We see this as a positive development towards the liberation of Marawi from the hands of terrorists," Abella said.
On Wednesday, Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana confirmed that the government forces were able to rescue nine males and eight females, with ages ranging from 18 to 75.
Lorenzana, however, declined to provide "confidential" details about the rescue as the troops continue their resolve to rescue more hostages in the besieged city.
On May 23, Maute militants attacked Marawi City in an attempt to establish a caliphate in the southern Philippines for Islamic State's (IS) Southeast Asia fighters.
President Rodrigo Duterte declared military rule in the entire Mindanao in a bid to quell the rebellion and prevent possible spread to other parts of the country.
Both Duterte and Lorenzana earlier said that the armed struggle in Marawi City might end on September 30 but their pronouncement was apparently not met.
According to a government data, the death toll in the four-month battle in Marawi has reached to 955, as of October 4. The casualties include 753 terrorists, 47 civilians, and 155 security forces.
Abella said Islamist gunmen who were still engaged in a firefight with security troops tend to show "tenacity and resistance."
He, however, said the country's forces continued to launch "focused and intense" offensives, in order to retake the conflict-torn city.
"While rebels remain holed up in a small portion of the city, they show tenacity and resistance," Abella said.
"Military operations are focused and intense and necessitate time to rescue remaining hostages, and bring to a decisive conclusion the Marawi rebellion," he added. (SunStar Philippines)