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Five terrorists killed during Marawi clash in Philippines

MARAWI CITY, Philippines (Philippine Daily Inquirer/ANN) -- A clash, which erupted less than 12 hours after President Rodrigo Duterte visited troops in the main battle area, resulted in the death of five terrorists in this city.

At least five gunmen belonging to the Maute terror group and their allies were killed after a firefight with government forces broke out here on Tuesday, military reports said.

President Duterte and military officials inspect the Grand Islamic Mosque in Marawi City, which government troops recovered from militants. -- Photo Malacanang

The military's Joint Task Force (JTF) Marawi said the clash, which erupted less than 12 hours after President Rodrigo Duterte visited troops in the main battle area, started at 1:19 am between Marines, under the Joint Task Group Tiger, and gunmen holed out in a section of this Lanao del Sur provincial capital.

A statement from the JTF Marawi said five suspected gunmen were killed in the clash but government troops had accounted for only four bodies.

“[Only] two bodies were retrieved while the other two were left in the [clash] site because of dangerous circumstances,” it said.

Soldiers also recovered several firearms, including two high-powered guns, and a pair of night vision goggles.

Lt. Col. Jo-ar Herrera of the 1st Infantry Division's public affairs office said the recovery of the night vision goggles showed that the Maute gunmen and their allies had access to technology in fighting the government.

The use of such technology, he said, enabled extremists to engage soldiers even if it was dark. He said the government had yet to determine where the night vision goggles came from. “We still don't know if they got this from slain soldiers or they had this already when the fighting started [on May 23],” Herrera said.

Brig. Gen. Rolando Bautista, JTF Marawi commander, said Mr. Duterte's encouragement during his visit here on Monday “boosted” the “fighting spirit” of soldiers battling the Maute gunmen and their allies.

“The President's recent presence in the main battle area left a mark on our troops, [on] their strong desire to end the crisis in Marawi,” Bautista said. Maj. Gen. Danilo Pamonag, commander of the Joint Special Operations Task Force Trident, said the “heightened morale [of soldiers] in fighting the enemy has resulted in the quick and deliberate assault of enemy positions.”

“This accomplishment shows that the enemy's hold in Marawi City is decreasing day by day. It is only a matter of time that the crisis will end,” he added.

The government has suffered 145 fatalities since the fighting erupted in May. Records showed at least 650 militants were killed.

The fighting killed at least 45 civilians and displaced more than 400,000 people.

On Monday, Mr. Duterte made his fourth visit to soldiers fighting Islamic State-inspired militants here.

The President went to the Grand Islamic Mosque, which soldiers recovered from the Maute group on August 24. He also went to the Baloi Bridge in Barangay Mapandi and to the main battle area, where he joined soldiers in group pictures.

“Saludo ako sa inyo (I salute all of you),” a Malacañang press statement quoted Mr Duterte as telling the soldiers during his speech.

The President attended a command conference with the JTF Marawi, where he was briefed on the developments of the nearly four months of efforts by government troops to retake the city from the Maute group.

(Latest Update September 14, 2017)

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