PRESIDENT Rodrigo Duterte claimed that the armed conflict between the government forces and the Islamic State (IS)-linked Maute terrorist group was "almost over."
Duterte, in an interview aired on state-run PTV4 on Friday night, said the government security forces could not advance their offensives against the Maute terror group because they have to consider the lives of the remaining hostages.
The President said it could have been easier for the state forces to "drop a hundred bombs" in places where the extremists were still holed up, including the mosques, but he chose to end the battle "peacefully."
"[Marawi crisis] is almost over. Almost is because of the lives of the hostages," Duterte said.
"We tried our very best to end this war peacefully. We never had the intention to destroy the holy shrines of the Islam... It’s easy to destroy the mosques, just drop a hundred bombs and it’s done [but] you know, we have to be very careful about the sensitivity of the people,” he added.
On May 23, Maute fighters stormed Marawi City while the military was conducting a manhunt operation against Abu Sayyaf leader Isnilon Hapilon.
It was believed that the Maute group and Hapilon, the purported emir of IS in Southeast Asia, were in connivance to establish an enclave for fighters in Southeast Asia.
Duterte, in a bid to thwart the Islamist extremists' plan, placed Mindanao under martial law. The order stays until December 31.
Since Marawi crisis erupted, around 813 terrorists, 160 security personnel, and 47 civilians have died, as of October 12.
In a chance interview on Wednesday, Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana said the security forces are exhausting all means to end the armed conflict in Marawi City “within the next few days.” (SunStar Philippines)