Sunday 25 June, 2017
Evacuated residents disembark from a military vehicle shortly after arriving at a processing center near a hospital in Marawi on June 21, 2017. PHOTO: AFP
MARAWI (PHILIPPINE DAILY INQUIRER, AFP) – An eight-hour ceasefire declared by the Philippine military Sunday (June 25) in the war-torn city of Marawi to allow residents to celebrate the end of Ramadan has ended with automatic rifle and machine gun fire, along with mortar round explosions.
Military chief General Eduardo Ano had announced on Saturday his forces, who have been battling Muslim militants occupying parts of Marawi since May, would implement a “humanitarian pause”.
Rescuers went into the battle zone to pluck out trapped civilians during the ceasefire, which started 6 am Sunday.
But the gunfire and explosions resumed at around 2pm.
Journalists covering the rescue operation, soldiers and other civilian members of the Lanao del Sur provincial rescue team, also had to run for cover when bullets started reaching their position – just a few meters past the Amai Pakpak Medical Center.
The area that the stray bullet reached was supposed to be a cleared area already, including the nearby Agus I hydroplant.
Marawi is considered the most important Muslim city in the mainly Catholic Philippines.
The Eid al-Fitr feast ends the fasting month of Ramadan when observant Muslims do not drink or eat between dawn and nightfall.
“We declare a lull in our current operations in the city on that day as a manifestation of our high respect to the Islamic faith,” Ano said in a statement.
He described the move as “a testimony to the Armed Forces of the Philippines’ solid commitment to provide our brother Muslims, especially in the city of Marawi, an opportunity to observe this festive event.”
Hundreds of militants flying the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS) group flag and backed by foreign fighters seized swathes of Marawi in the southern region of Mindanao last month, sparking an ongoing bloody, street-to-street battle.
In May Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte declared martial law across all of Mindanao to quell what he said was a rebellion aimed at establishing an ISIS province in the area.
Government troops have launched a relentless air and ground offensive in a bid to crush the militants but have failed to dislodge gunmen from entrenched positions in pockets of the city.
Much of the lakeside city is now in ruins while most of its 200,000 residents have fled to evacuation centres or to the homes of relatives and friends. – Straits Times