Philippine army captures Daesh command center in Marawi

Smoke rises from buildings amid fighting in Marawi on the southern island of Mindanao in the Philippines

THE Maute group, blamed by security authorities for the siege in Marawi City since May, has started enlisting compulsorily civilians in an effort to increase their dwindling numbers in the provincial capital, Task Force Ranao Deputy Commander Col. Romeo Brawner has said.

Fighting between state troops and Islamic State-linked terrorists has been raging for almost four months in Marawi, leaving at least 845 dead, majority terrorists, and hundreds of thousands displaced.

Philippine forces have held back launching a full-scale attack on rebel strongholds, fearing for the lives of Father Soganub and several hundred other hostages.

Meanwhile, four soldiers were hurt when an improvised explosive device that terrorists had abandoned at Bato mosque exploded. It has been pounding the battle area with air strikes throughout the week.

More than 800 terrorists are also believed to have been killed since May 23, when the groups of the Maute brothers - Abdullah and Omar - backed by Abu Sayyaf leader Isnilon Hapilon took over mosques, churches, some government facilities including including hospitals, schools, police stations, banks and other private buildings.

General Eduardo Ano, the chief of the Armed Forces of the Philippines, said: "The enormous military gain further weakened the terrorist group by denying them their erstwhile command and control hub".

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"As follow-up and clearing operations continue, we expect the enemy to yield more previously occupied positions, but not without a fight", he said.

Año urged the remaining Maute gunmen, as well as former hostages turned fighters, to surrender "while they still have time".

He also said Suganob, a vicar general of the prelature of Marawi was taken hostage in an undisclosed location.

"The duo revealed (initially to the rescuing troops) that they escaped when their captors had a heavy firefight against the government forces in the said location..."

The military chief of the city of Marawi, which Daesh terrorists took over in May, said on Sunday that forces had captured the militants' command center after a fierce battle and were now engaged in a mopping-up operation.

Speaking outside the ruins of buildings destroyed in fierce clashes, Suganob made an emotional appeal to Duterte to save all of them, saying, the militants are ready to die for their religion.

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