AFP: No more Maute stragglers in Marawi

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Metro Manila (CNN Philippines, November 16) — The Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) said they believe there are no more Maute stragglers in Marawi City due to the lack of fighting between both sides for the past few weeks.

On Thursday, AFP Pubic Affairs Chief Col. Edgard Arevalo said he spoke with Joint Task Force Ranao Deputy Commander Colonel Romeo Brawner who said stragglers in Marawi have been "neutralized."

"Wala nang firefight na nangyayari, wala na tayong, wala nang nakikita tayong kalaban doon sa lugar so what we are now focused on ay 'yung clearing," Arevalo said.

[Translation:There are no more firefights. There is no sign of the enemy in the area so we are now focused on clearing operations.]

The clearing operations are necessary, Arevalo said, to prepare for reconstruction and rehabilitation of the war-torn city.

RELATED: Gov't shifts focus to Marawi rehab as residents prepare to come home

However, in the event that stragglers should be found, Arevalo said they would like to talk to the terrorists to get more information and convince them to lay down their arms.

"Kasi ang kadalasang ganyan na straggler, hindi nila nalalaman, maaring nagtatago sila sa isang, sa mga basement pa dyan o kung saan mang lugar na, hindi pa nila alam exactly kung ano ang nangyayari, na tapos na pala ang bakbakan," Arevalo said.

[Translation: What usually happens with stragglers is they don't always know, they might be hiding in basements or in other places where they don't exactly know what is happening, that the fight is already over.]

Arevalo said they are hopeful the rebels will turn over their firearms or else suffer the same fate as their fellow rebels who had been killed. A total of 847 Maute fighters have died in the five-month long siege.

"Hindi natin bibigyan ng puwang ang terrorism na maghari sa ating bansa," he said.

[Translation: We cannot give allow terrorism to take over our country.]

The Marawi crisis started on May 23 when government forces clashed with members of the rebel group Maute in Marawi City, Lanao del Sur. President Rodrigo Duterte declared the city's liberation on October 17.

On November 6, Brawner said there were less than 20 Maute stragglers left in different areas in the war zone.

RELATED: 9 Maute stragglers killed in Marawi - military

When Dutere declared the end of the war, he said the city was free from "terrorist influence."

READ: Timeline: The Marawi crisis

Abu Sayyaf Group is next

With the Maute problem almost over, Arevalo announced the next priority would be to put an end to the Abu Sayyaf Group.

On November 6, six soldiers died after clashes with the Abu Sayyaf in Basilan.

Arevalo said such incidents strengthen the resolve of the military to neutralize the Abu Sayyaf. The rebels' actions, he said, are merely a front.

"The intent is trying to show other supporters and sympathizers na kaya pa nilang mag-put up ng laban sa gobyerno at makakuha pa rin sila ng suporta, simpatiya buhat mga taong ito. But these are miscalculation on their part, at pwede nating sabihin na it is all meant for show," Arevalo said.

[Translation: The intent is trying to show other supporters and sympathizers that they can put up a fight against the government and get support and sympathy from others. But these are miscalculations on their part, and we can say it's all meant for show.]

Although the exact number of their members is unclear, the Abu Sayyaf Group is one of the smallest lawless groups in the Philippines – but is also considered as among the most violent.

RELATED: Who are the Abu Sayyaf?

Largely based in Western Mindanao, the Abu Sayyaf Group operates mainly in the provinces of Basilan, Sulu, and Tawi-Tawi in the Sulu archipelago.

CNN Philippines Correspondents Rex Remitio, David Santos, and Gerg Cahiles contributed to this report.