Men, women and children are returning to the lakeshore city of Marawi in trickles to find their homes damaged after a five-month battle with Islamic State-backed militants officially declared over on Oct. 23.
The Philippine military has spray-painted “cleared” on buildings the militants had taken over but were eventually dislodged from during the fighting in the southern Philippine city. Still, close to 40 militants are holed up in the ruins of a section of the city, the army said.
Military spokesman Maj. Gen. Restituto Padilla said there were “pockets of enemy presence” in Marawi, which remains a dangerous place even as civilians have been given the green light to check their homes. Some homes are off limits.
“The main battle area, where most of the very heavy fighting occurred in the last few weeks, still arbors a number of stragglers,” Padilla said.
“As you may have noted in the last few days, there have been a series of engagements that have occurred between our forces who continue to perform clearing operations,” he said, noting that a captured Indonesian militant had told interrogators that 39 militant fighters were still active in the area.
The clashes with the holdouts erupted on Nov. 2 as scout rangers were conducting clearing operations. They found improvised bombs left behind to slow down the militants’ pursuers.
“The process of clearing will continue. We will not stop until each building that they left is cleared of their presence and enemy fighters are flushed out,” he said.
Felipe Villamor in Manila contributed to this report.