Military sees end of Marawi siege in 15 days or less

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Marawi City (CNN Philippines) — The military is optimistic the firefight in Marawi City will end within 15 days, while Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana sees an even earlier end to it.

Lorenzana is confident the Marawi fighting will end within the week, he said Wednesday, based on information he received from ground commanders.

The Maute group's control in the battle zone has dwindled to five hectares, from the 10 hectares they controlled a week ago.

Lorenzana also said there are only less than a hundred terrorists remaining in Marawi, holding around 20 hostages.

Government forces said there is no letup in their offensive against the Maute Group even as they discover more complex homemade bombs.

Joint Task Group Ranao Deputy Commander Colonel Romeo Brawner said Maute fighters are placing these bombs in every passageway of structures they still hold on to.

"Multiple triggering devices ang ginagamit, hindi lang command-detonated or pressure-type. Nako-combine na nila. Plus 'yung mga indigenous materials; marami silang kino-combine," Brawner said.

[Translation: They are using multiple triggering devices, not only command detonated or pressure time. They are now combining the triggering devices, including indigenous materials.]

The military is looking for ways to penetrate the structures, such as creating ratholes to be able to conduct clearing operations in the remaining buildings being held by the Maute.

Marawi City Mayor Majul Usman Gandamra tried to hold back tears as he appealed to the Maute to surrender.

"Tapusin na ang kaguluhan dahil maraming namatay," Gandamra said on Wednesday.

[Translation: End the crisis because many have died.]

Sixty-one-year-old Abdul Nasser Mangondaya, who was recently rescued, is savoring his freedom from the terrorists. But he is emotional in his message to those still in captivity.

"Manalangin lang kayo kay Allah. Siya lang tutulong sa inyo. Gaya namin, malaya na kami. Nakita namin ang pamilya namin. Apat na buwan. Miss na miss namin ang pamilya namin," he said.

Related: 'Doctor Omar': I treated my Maute captors

Officials said some 1,730 civilians in Marawi have been rescued by government forces from the fighting.

The military said Maute fighters are trying to escape through Lake Lanao, but government snipers are taking them down.

"They are visible. Even from afar kasi kitang-kita po ng mga scopes natin. And usually, they are armed men," Brawner said. "That's why the only option left for our snipers is neutralize them," he added.

The Marawi City siege by the Maute began on May 23. As of September 25, day 126 of the fighting, officials said 695 Maute fighters have been killed, 47 civilians are dead, and troops killed in action number 151.