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Bodies still to be retrieved from Philippine conflict zone

Aerial bombardments and close quarter combat has prevented retrieval of fatalities.

 
Soldiers rush to an area in the outskirts of Marawi as aerial bombing on suspected enemy position continued June 16. (ucanews.com photo)
Marawi: 

At least a hundred decomposing bodies are still to be retrieved from the streets of Marawi in the southern Philippines as the battle for control of the city entered its fourth week.

Aerial bombardments and close quarter combat between security forces and terrorist gunmen have prevented the retrieval of the fatalities, according to civilian officials in the Muslim region.

Zia Alonto Adiong, a member of the regional assembly of the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao, said Marawi residents who were able to escape from the city talked about bodies on the streets.

The information could not be independently verified because journalists and humanitarian groups are still prevented from entering the conflict zone.

"The information is based on accounts of witnesses and residents," said Adiong.

"The estimate of the bodies they saw is at least a hundred," he said.

Lt. Col. Jo-Ar Herrera, military spokesman in Marawi, confirmed the report, saying government troops have reported seeing the dead bodies of enemy fighters.

"We already have a retrieval plan, but we are waiting for the go signal from inside the conflict zone to proceed," Herrera told ucanews.com.

The military official said he could not confirm the number of fatalities left on the streets, although he said most would likely be enemy fighters.

Civilian officials said they also have no information whether the bodies are of civilians caught in the crossfire, government security forces, or terrorist gunmen.

"We have yet to determine whose side the casualties are from," said Adiong, adding that retrieval operations will be carried out when the fighting is over.

On June 16, four military planes dropped dozens of bombs on suspected terrorist positions in the heart of Marawi.

Smoke from burning houses could be seen from the provincial capitol of Lanao del Sur, which serves as operations center for both military and civilian response units.

The Philippine military earlier said the fighting has already been contained in four villages of Marawi and soldiers were making progress in clearing up operations.

The Muslim region's humanitarian response team said some 233,000 people displaced by the armed conflict have already been accounted for.

Myrna Jo Henry of a government emergency aid agency said that while most of the refugees are staying in evacuation centers some are living in homes of relatives and friends.

She said not all the displaced families come from Marawi, which has only a population of 201,000. "Residents in nearby towns also evacuated," said Henry.

Source: UCAN

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