Urban terrain and their position are giving terrorists undue advantage in the ongoing fighting with government troopers at the tail end of finishing remaining terrorists in the month-long siege of Marawi City.
Less than a hundred elements of the Maute Group are still holding fort in fortified buildings in the urban area since their May 22 surprise attack and occupation of some parts of this Muslim city.
The military, while mindful of the public clamor to end the fight against the terrorist Maute Group at the soonest possible time, cannot rush it to prevent more casualties in the long run, said Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) spokesman Brig. Gen. Restituto Padilla.
“(Urban fighting) is complex. It is not that easy. People are very impatient but they don’t know the sacrifices of their soldiers,” Padilla said.
Padilla cited the experience of one Marine unit last week as they were clearing a building in Marawi City.
“The Marines found an IED so they tried to deal with it by trying to explode it remotely. When it exploded, there were 10 huge explosions, like a ‘Judas Belt’ firecracker. It turns out that the IED was part of a (booby trap consisting of a series of IEDs laid together), which if triggered, would likely kill or injure troops unwittingly,” he said.
Padilla said neutralizing the remaining terrorists is complicated due to the urban terrain and with the enemy well aware of their positional advantage.
He cited the case of military units in the Middle East, who, despite their firepower and numerical superiority, encountered extreme difficulty in combating ISIS terrorists in an urban setting.
“The Battle of Mosul (in Iraq) is still ongoing. (Having) started in October 2016, it is not yet finished. (It has) been going on for eight months. In Libya (which conducted operations against) ISIS/Daesh (terrorists), the battle started May 12 (last year) and ended only last Nov. 6, so it lasted over six months,” Padilla said.
He further noted that in the Battle of Ramadi where American and Iraqi forces combined to fight the ISIS terrorists, the operation began in April 2006 and ended only in November that year and during the Second Battle of Fallujah where the Iraqi, American and British forces combined against Al-Qaeda terrorists, operations lasted Nov. 7 to Dec. 23, 2004.
“So if you will compare it to the ongoing engagement (in Marawi), the terrain is very much the same, and we are doing this very carefully. We have complex issues — presence of hostages, residents in their homes refusing to leave, and continued discovery of improvised explosive devices, (necessitating) the door-to-door clearing operations our soldiers must practice,” Padilla said. (Priam F. Nepomuceno/PNA)