The military retrieved 17 bodies of civilians -- five of them headless -- from the besieged city of Marawi on Wednesday, according to a senior army official.
Clashes in Marawi started on May 23 which prompted President Rodrigo Duterte to impose martial law on the southern island of Mindanao. The conflict has left more than 200,000 residents displaced.
In a text sent to reporters, Western Mindanao Command’s Lt. Col. Emmanuel Garcia confirmed the retrieval of the bodies, but he did not share details; however, Rappler -- a Philippines-based online news portal -- reported that the 17 bodies were in an advanced state of decomposition.
The bodies were recovered during the troops’ retrieval operations in the village of Gadungan in Marawi before noontime on Wednesday, Brig. Gen. Rolando Joselito Bautista told local media.
Some corpses could not be retrieved due to Maute snipers, local media added.
The number of slain civilians in the ongoing fight between government forces and the Daesh-linked Maute group in the southern Philippines’ Marawi City could “significantly increase”, Brig. Gen. Restituto Padilla warned during a press briefing on Wednesday.
The civilian death toll is estimated to have reached at least 44 with the latest retrieval of bodies.
Meanwhile, the leader of the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) offered to broker negotiations between Maute and the government to end the conflict in Marawi City.
Murad Ebrahim, MILF chairman, said the front was willing to open communication lines with the brothers Omar and Abdullah Maute, who used to be part of his group before they were radicalized abroad, ABS-CBN reported on Wednesday.
His offer came after Abdullah, one of the two leaders of Maute group whose parents were arrested by government forces, told religious emissaries that he was willing to leave Marawi if MILF intervenes.
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