MARAWI CITY – Stray dogs have been feasting on bodies scattered on the streets here where Islamic State-inspired militants are holed up for a week now.
The destruction is unimaginable as mosques, houses and establishments are destroyed by the airstrikes conducted by the military.
This is how Norhidaya Imam, 20, describes what she saw in their village that has been under the control of members of the Maute terror group and Abu Sayyaf bandits.
“There were many dead civilians, and the dogs were eating them,” Imam, who is staying in an evacuation centre with her 1-year-old daughter and husband in nearby Balo-i town in Lanao del Norte province, told the Inquirer.
“I saw it myself. In our village alone there were many civilians hit by bombs fired by the military,” she added.
Her husband, Bokhary, 22, said they did not bring any of their belongings when they left the city.
“And we have no reason to go back because our house was destroyed by bombs,” he said.
Retrieval of bodies
Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao Assemblyman Zia Alonto Adiong, the acting spokesperson for the provincial government of Lanao del Sur, said local officials received information that bodies needed to be retrieved from several areas in the city.
The International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) said it was concerned with the situation of civilians who were trapped in areas where fighting was continuing.
On Tuesday, Martin Thalmann, ICRC deputy country head, said the situation in Marawi was “very fluid,” due to ongoing military operations.
“The Geneva Convention is very concerned about civilians in such conflict situation … the fighting parties need to respect civilians and not to indiscriminately bombard their areas,” Thalmann told reporters.
“We ask both sides that they [be] careful, that they respect the life of civilians and give them, if possible, time to move out of the [danger] zones,” he added.
“We met [with] the military … we have contacts with the other side as well. We reminded them of these concerns and they responded to it. We were also discussing the possibilities [of declaring ceasefire] … but the security crisis is so intense so it seems not possible,” he said.
Adiong said local officials could not assure the safety of civilians who wanted to get out of the city.
“But there are civilians who did manage to get out,” he said.
At least 65 militants, 17 soldiers, three policemen and 24 civilians died in the fighting that started last week.
Adiong said some 95,600 individuals had left Marawi, a city of more than 200,000 people. Some residents are seeking shelter in evacuation centres while others are staying with relatives outside Marawi.