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17 September 2017, 05:35 | Erica Roy
Smoke bellows from buildings in Marawi City's central district following aerial attacks from government forces. Jonathan Cellona ABS-CBN News
After almost four months of fighting, Philippine government troops have retaken a historic mosque along with two other major strongholds of ISIL-linked militants in the war-torn Marawi City.
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.
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.
An army commander, Col. Romeo Brawner, said Sunday in a news conference in Marawi that troops were battling to eradicate up to 80 remaining militants who may be holding more than 40 hostages.
A Maute gunman was also killed in the offensive a day earlier, September 16.
As of this report, the military continues to press forward in the battle area to penetrate what it believes to be the final defensive stand of the militants.
WestMinCom spokesperson Capt. Jo-Ann Petinglay said the death toll among government forces has reached 149.
"This enormous (military) gain further weakened the terrorist group by denying them their erstwhile command and control hub", military chief General Eduardo Ano said in a statement. "The Maute terrorists now force their hostages, especially the male hostages to fight with the troops".
The school was burned down by Maute terrorists on May 23 as they laid siege to strategic areas there, sparking hostilities that have since dragged on.
"Kaya hindi po kami pwedeng magbigay ng detalye [The reason why we can't give out details], because it might compromise it might jeopardize our rescue operations".
Early last month, government security forces also regained control of the Grand Mosque located at the center of the battle zone in Marawi.
Accounts from hostages who either escaped or were rescued said the militants had forced them to convert to Islam, carry wounded fighters to mosques, and the women to marry militants.
It was Dela Peña who reported that the Maute torched the Cathedral of Our Lady Help of Christians in the city on the same day the diocese was supposed to be celebrating the feast of its patron saint.
Recently, Suganob and other hostages appeared in a video released by the terrorists in which they appealed to the government to stop their aerial bombings particularly in Marawi's central business district.
Fr. Chito Suganob was reportedly among the rescued captives, Presidential Peace Adviser Jesus Dureza said in a Facebook post, citing his staff based in Iligan City.
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