One hundred days after militants linked to the Islamic State seized the southern Philippine city of Marawi, troops and tanks crossed a strategic bridge Wednesday into neighborhoods long held by gunmen, as heavy fighting continued blocks away.
Journalists accompanying the soldiers captured new images of the damage to the once-vibrant Muslim city of 200,000 people on Mindanao Island.
“We cannot say how many days we can finish the fight, but as far as we are concerned, we are only about 500 meters to the lake from this point,” Gen. Milquiades Ordiales, commander of the 1st Marine Brigade, told reporters who were allowed to cross the bridge for the first time since fighting erupted.
“We took about two months to reach this bridge. Upon reaching the area, it took us one week to cross this street, and we have so many casualties,” he said.
In Manila, military chief Gen. Eduardo Ano said soldiers had encircled the terrorists.
“Our main goal is no way in and no way out for them,” Ano said.
Since the start of the fighting, 617 enemy fighters and 133 soldiers have died along with 45 civilians, according to the government.