Government forces rescue 17 more hostages from Maute

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Marawi City (CNN Philippines, October 4) — Government forces on Wednesday rescued 17 hostages in the war-torn city of Marawi, Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana said.

Joint Task Force (JTF) Marawi rescued nine men and eight women from the main battle area, according to Lorenzana. This comes as the military says it is counting days before it can liberate Marawi City from the Maute group.

"Details of the rescue is confidential because efforts to rescue the remaining hostages are still ongoing," Lorenzana said.

So far, more than 20 hostages are still being held by Maute fighters inside the main battle area, officials said.

"Ongoing pa rin ang ating operation to rescue the hostages (Our rescue operations are still ongoing)," said JTF Ranao Deputy Commander Colonel Romeo Brawner.

On September 17, Catholic priest Fr. Chito Soganub was rescued by government troops. He was taken hostage when the crisis began on May 23.

READ: Abducted priest rescued in Marawi, authorities say  

A week after Soganub's abduction, a video was posted on the Facebook page of Bisaya News, where the priest said he was taken as a prisoner of war along with church workers, a professor of the Mindanao State University, teachers from the Dansalan College, carpenters, household helpers, children, Christian settlers, and tribe members.

Other hostages who have been earlier rescued recounted their stories, saying they were ordered to cook, wash dishes and clothes, carry ammunition and dig up trenches. Others were given guns and ordered to fight alongside Maute group members.

READ: Task Force Marawi: Maute hostages forced to fight gov't troops

Some women hostages revealed they were even forced to marry Maute fighters, while others sexually abused.

READ: AFP: Female hostages in Marawi forced to marry Maute members, become sex slaves

Meanwhile, Marawi City Mayor Majul Usman Gandamra said cleanup operations are now being carried out in the city's areas that have been cleared by the military. They are still discovering firearms and bomb-making materials.

"So ngayon po ay cleared na po at sinisimulan na nating linisin...Lahat po ng sectors ay nagtutlung-tulungan upang sa ganon ay ito na po ang panimula for the normalization of Marawi City," Gandamra said.

[Translation: We have started cleaning up cleared areas...All sectors are helping out, so this is the start for the normalization of Marawi City.]

The military said 759 Maute fighters have been killed since fighting broke out in the city, adding 155 government troopers have died in action.

It added 47 civilians have died in the crisis, while 1,750 have been rescued.

They have also cleared 29 buildings, and retaken key structures such as mosques and the strategic bridges in Marawi.