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Military fighting Maute even on social media

MARAWI CITY, Lanao del Sur—The military has asked Facebook Philippines to take down at least 63 accounts that it claimed were being operated by supporters and sympathizers of the Maute group.

Lt. Col. Jo-ar Herrera, the spokesperson of the Army’s 1st Infantry Division, said these Facebook accounts—which were mostly dummy accounts—post or share disinformation that affected the military operation.

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“We would like also to appeal to Facebook Philippines for an investigation …and undertake necessary measures to investigate the 63 Facebook accounts that are being utilized by the Maute and their sympathizers because these 63 accounts are spreading malicious and misleading information and disinformation that affect the information landscape and the mindset of people,” he told reporters here.

Herrera said the coordination with Facebook and government agencies such as the National Telecommunications Commission (NTC) to combat such “misinformation” was being conducted by the military’s central command in Manila.

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He said so far, Facebook has not yet responded to the military’s request.

Herrera said while the military was conducting a war against the spread of malicious and fake information on social media regarding the crisis here, it also continued to focus on at least three other concerns.

READ: Take down church attack video, social media told

He said among them was “the clearing of Marawi of terrorists and armed elements still in the area.”

He said they are also focused on the rescue of trapped civilians-whose number were still between 500 to “less than a thousand,” the recovery of civilian casualties and to assist local government units and non-government groups – as well as civil society organizations – in the conduct of relief operations.

On Friday, Herrera said the military rained bombs anew on the remaining strongholds of the Maute and Abu Sayyaf gunmen, which were the villages of Lilod, Marinaut and Bangolo.

READ: Military resumes airstrikes in Maute strongholds

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He said the air strikes and the ground operations had provided the military more headway against the terrorists such as the retaking of some vital installations.

The Marawi City Hall, he said, was now also operational.

“Our soldiers continue to gain more foothold into the inner areas of the city. (The) enemy resistance is dwindling by the day,” Herrera said.

He said the clearing of areas was being done “by the sector” but as of Friday, the military was “progressing positively.”

Herrera said compounding the problem on clearing operations were the extremists’ use of civilians as human shield – about 100 hostages still, their use of madrasah schools and mosques as staging areas, and the discovery of tunnels, which he said, “may have been utilized by the enemy.”

But Herrera clarified that these tunnels were old and not recently dug.

“Our forces will continue to execute operations to ensure we save lives through expedited and deliberate military actions,” he said.

Zia Alonto Adiong, the spokesperson of the Lanao del Sur provincial crisis management office, said they were optimistic that by June 12, the military would already be able to clear Marawi of terrorists.

Herrera said as of Friday, they have overtaken several defensive positions and pinned down machine gun and snipers’ nests.

“We are now in the heart of Bangolo area,” he declared.

Since May 23, the military has already lost 40 men as of Thursday evening.

Based on Herrera’s report, the Maute/Abu Sayyaf groups had suffered 138 casualties.

“The number of civilians killed by the Maute remained at 20,” he said.

Asked about the remaining number of the extremists holed in some areas here, Herrera said there were still around 200-230 gunmen remaining, including their top leaders, Isnilon Hapilon and Abdullah and Omar Maute.

“They are still inside commanding their men. They are utilizing and maximizing tunnels for their logistical support and for their protection,” he said.

TOPICS: Facebook, Jo-Ar Herrera, Marawi, Maute group, Military
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