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On siege anniversary, 70% of residents back in Marawi City

Military says it has cleared Philippine city of about 85% of unexploded bombs and improvised explosive devices left by militants

  • Displaced Marawi residents shelter inside a makeshift tent area on May 14, 2018 in Marawi, Philippines.Image Credit: AFP/Getty Images
  • File photo: Evacuated residents arrive at a checkpoint in Marawi City on the southern island of Mindanao durinImage Credit: AFP
  • Government troops drive past a marker of Marawi City.Image Credit: Reuters
Gulf News

Manila: About 70 per cent of residents from Marawi City, who were displaced by the fighting between the Philippine military and extremist militants a year ago, have now returned to their homes, officials say.

Spokesman Harry Roque said during a briefing at the Presidential Palace on Tuesday that, while conditions in the Southern Philippine city were still far from normal, government efforts towards rehabilitation were making headway.

“The good news is that, as far as the residents are concerned, 70 per cent have gone back to their homes. We have provided temporary or permanent homes for them,” he said.

Name of image Marawi: Women show photos of their husbands who are still missing one year after the Marawi siege. AFP

On May 23 last year, chaos broke in the urban centre which prides itself as the Philippines’ Islamic City, when Daesh-inspired militants led by Abdullah and Omar Maute, together with the Sulu and Basilan-based fighters headed by Isnilon Hapilon, started an uprising against the government.

Name of image A soldier drives through the ruins of Marawi city in southern Philippines exactly a year after Filipino militants laid siege in the city Wednesday, May 23, 2018. Philippine officials say hundreds of displaced residents remain in emergency shelters as the threat of militants and unexploded bombs lingers in the ruins of a southern city that was held by Daesh group-aligned fighters for five months last year. The May 23 siege that troops crushed in October, killed more than 1,100 mostly militants, sparked President Rodrigo Duterte's most serious crisis and reinforced Asia's fears that the Daesh group is gaining a foothold in the region. AP

Daesh Caliphate

Militants from Malaysia, Singapore, Indonesia and other countries joined the siege under the banner of Daesh, as they attempted to establish a “caliphate” in Southeast Asia.

Name of image Photo taken on May 23, 2018: Weeds grow in the ruins of lake-side Marawi City in southern Philippines exactly a year after Filipino militants, joined by foreign fighters, laid siege in the city. AP

The rebellion was quashed five months after it began with the death of the Maute brothers, Hapilon and the other militants — but the uprising dealt a lasting blow on the native Maranao and Christian minority, as their homes had been devastated and families lost members in the fighting.

Duterte assumes 'full responsibility'

In a speech during the 120th anniversary of the Philippine Navy at the Coconut Palace in Manila on Tuesday, the Philippine President said he takes full responsibility for "faults" in handling Marawi siege, adding said it was hurtful that there were deaths in the siege.

“I assume full responsibility,” Duterte said.

The president said he not anticipate that the Daesh-inspired Maute gang would have “so much ordnance and that the fight took us about four months to finish.”

“All of these faults, if it is indeed one, or our faults, it belongs and it falls on my shoulders as commander-in-chief,” the President said. 

Mautes linked to shabu trade

The Philippine Daily Inquirer quoted the chief executive as saying that said the Marawi rebellion was funded by shabu, pointing out that the siege took place when police was serving the warrant of arrest of Maute members in a case related to illegal drugs.

Name of image Combo image of (from left) brothers Omarkhayam and Abdullah Maute and Abu Sayyaf senior leader Isnilon Hapilon. Their death, while holding hostages, ended the Marawi seige. Philippine President Duterte said the Marawi rebellion was funded by trade in meth (also locally known as 'shabu'), pointing out that the siege took place when police was serving the warrant of arrest of Maute members in a case related to illegal drugs. Philippine Army/File

Aside from the assistance from the government, international help was mobilised in the rehabilitation efforts and among the countries that responded were the United States, Australia, Japan and China.

Residents return to 72 villages out of 96 villages

According to Myles Rivera, head of the Task Force Bangon Marawi Secretariat, out of the 96 villages that comprise Marawi City, the majority of the residents from 72 villages have already returned.

Name of image The ruins of Marawi City in southern Philippines as seen on Wednesday, May 23, 2018. Exactly a year ago, Filipino militants, helped by foreign fighters, laid siege to the city and declared it a territory of the Daesh caliphate. It was the most serious challenge to President Rodrigo Duterte, and reinforced Asia's fears that the Daesh group is gaining a foothold in the region. AP

Those coming from the remaining 24 villages from the totally damaged areas have yet to return to their homes since most of it the strucured had been destroyed.

More than 240,000 residents had been displaced by the fighting and were housed in temporary shelters in safe areas of Marawi City as well as in Iligan City.

“I would say for those people who are not directly affected by the bombing, destroyed properties, most them have returned to their normal lives,” she added.

Name of image File photo: Debris fly as Philippine Air Force fighter jets bomb suspected locations of Daesh-inspired militants in Marawi city. The military campaign to dislodge the extremists caused extensive damage to large areas of the cities as the militants used houses as well as places of worship such as mosques and churches, as hiding places. The militants also booby trapped houses and government installations they had captured. File

The military campaign by the Armed Forces of the Philippines to dislodge the extremists caused extensive damage to large areas of the city. 

85% of battle area cleared

Marine Col. Edgard Arevalo, Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) spokesperson said that as of Tuesday, ordnance disposal teams from the Philippine Army, Navy, and Air Force had cleared 85 per cent of the battle area in Marawi City of unexploded bombs and improvised explosive devices left by the militants.

Name of image Before and after: Images of the last two of Marawi rebellion leaders Isnilon Hapilon (above) and Omarkhayam Maute (below) published by the military after the Daesh-inspired militants were killed in October last year. File

According to Arevalo, the removal of unexploded bombs was critical because rehabilitation works cannot commence until it was certain that all explosives in the battle area had been disposed.

1,240 killed

The fighting in Marawi City killed more than 1,000 members of the Maute and Abu Sayyaf together with their foreign supporters while more than 200 government soldiers were killed along with more than 40 civilians.

The campaign was the first time since the Second World War that the Philippines had witnessed such intense clashes, as heavy street fighting, and aerial and artillery bombardment characterised the campaign.

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