Philippine army captures key Maute base in Marawi

Philippine army captures key Maute base in Marawi
2 min read
17 September, 2017
Military leaders in Marawi say the four-month siege of a jihadi-held city nearing an end after government forces made major gains.
Government forces captured the command centre after heavy fighting [AFP]

The Philippine army said on Sunday that it had captured the Maute group's key command centre in Marawi.

The militants, who align themselves with the Islamic State group, have besieged the southern Philippine city for over four months.

"This enormous gain further weakened the terrorist group by denying them their erstwhile command and control hub," military chief General Eduardo Ano said in a statement.

"As follow up and clearing operations continue, we expect the enemy to yield more previously occupied positions, but not without a fight... We are ready for that."

Security forces - backed by airstrikes - have engaged in heavy street-to-street combat with Maute militants.

So far, the battle has left around 800 dead and heightened fears about the IS group's ability to gain a foothold in South-East Asia.

Despite the battle having raged on for months, the security forces are adament that they are reaching the end of the operation, despite facing some of the heaviest resistance so far.

"We believe we are close to the end. The area where the Maute terrorist group can move is shrinking. We noticed that their resistance is weakening," Colonel Romeo Brawner, deputy commander of the task force in Marawi, told AFP.

"They are retreating while we are assaulting but in the process of doing so, we are encountering many improvised explosive devices so we cannot just advance. We have to be very careful," he added.

In capturing the command centre and a mosque, one soldier and seven others were wounded, Brawner said.

He added that the military had hoped to rescue hostages from the mosque, however, none were found inside.

According to the Phillipines government, 666 Maute militants and at least 147 troops and 47 civilians have been killed since the battle began.

Thousands have also been forced to flee their homes, with President Rodrigo Duterte having imposed martial law across Mindanao province to deal with the crisis.