Military fighting hard to meet 'target date' in ending Marawi crisis

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The military set October 15 as the date to end the Marawi crisis, but with more than 40 Maute members still occupying two hectares of the city, the battle appears far from over | File photo

Metro Manila (CNN Philippines, October 15) — The military set October 15 as the date to end the Marawi crisis, but with more than 40 Maute members still occupying two hectares of the city, the battle appears far from over.

Task Force Ranao Deputy Commander Col. Romeo Brawner in a Sunday press briefing said it was only a "target date," not a deadline.

Should the war continue, it will be the sixth time for the government to move the date.

Brawner said the lives of civilians, with about 100 of them remaining with the terrorists, and that of soldiers and policemen, are at stake.

"They will try to finish it today but if not, they will still push harder," Brawner said.

He said even high-ranking military officials are helping end the war, with one battalion commander shot during the Saturday firefight.

"(Even) our field commanders are really at the forefront leading their men. Talagang ganun po katindi 'yung labanan  (That's how intense the fighting is). We are hoping we will end this siege, Marawi siege, very soon," Brawner said.

As of Sunday, Brawner said 162 soldiers have been killed in action, with more than 1,700 soldiers wounded.

While 47 civilians and 817 Maute fighters have been killed since the fighting broke out on May 23.

Marawi Crisis Management Committee head Zia Alonto Adiong said even though evacuees are longing to go home, they understand why the fighting continues.

"We put emphasis that in order to liberate Marawi City, we do not only focus on sanitizing the area from (improvised explosive devices)...securing historical landmarks. The prime and primordial concern is securing the lives of hostages," Adiong said.

Fighting hostages

Brawner said according to the 16-year-old girl hostage rescued Saturday, women and children are being used as human shields, and are sometimes forced to fight along with Maute members.

They are also used as pawns by the terrorists to determine the location of troops.

"Ang ginagawa po nila, sometimes pinapatakbo po nila yung mga hostages and they will wait if there are fires coming from the government side," Brawner said. "It's very sad because the civilians may be caught in the middle of the firefight."

[Translation: What they are doing is, they make the hostages run and they will wait if there are fires coming from the government side.]

Brawner said when that happens, soldiers have no choice but to treat hostages as combatants.

Aside from neutralizing enemies and rescuing hostages, Brawner said the military still has to conduct clearing operations to make sure no terrorists are left hiding inside canals, tunnels, or dugouts.

READ: Anticipation high on Marawi war's end

CNN Philippines' Gerg Cahiles and Yvette Morales contributed to this report.