"Doon sa mga naunang mga reports na nakuha natin, some of the hostages, especially 'yung mga lalaki at 'yung mga able-bodied ay pinwersa ng Maute na makipaglaban na rin sa government forces", Col. Romeo Brawner, Deputy Commander of the Joint Task Force Marawi, said this as he reported the recovery of the Bato Mosque.
The 2 hostages reportedly escaped late Saturday, hours after the military retook the Bato mosque and a school from the extremists, an ABS-CBN source said. "Mil (military) ops ongoing so we don't jeopardize their ops". He said he was updated by his staff at the Office of the Presidential Adviser Peace Adviser based in Iligan City.
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Fighting between state troops and Islamic State-linked terrorists has been raging for almost four months in Marawi, leaving at least 845 dead, a lot of them terrorists, and hundreds of thousands displaced.
According to the military, however, when they finally retook the mosque, there were no longer any hostages.
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Brawner, however, said: "If they are bearing arms, and they're fighting against the government forces, they are considered combatants, and they will be treated as such".
"As follow-up and clearing operations continue, we expect the enemy to yield more previously occupied positions, but not without a fight", he said.
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More than 800 militants, government troops and civilians have since been killed in the conflict, which has forced thousands to flee their homes and destroyed large parts of the once-bustling city. Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte has deployed thousands of troops and imposed martial law across the southern third of the country to deal with the crisis.
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