Over 700 bodies unrecovered in Marawi

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Marawi City (CNN Philippines, November 4) — The remains of over 700 terrorists and civilians killed in the conflict have yet to be recovered in the main battle zone, hampering rehabilitation efforts of the military in Marawi.

"The expected number of Maute fighters killed inside is around mga 900, 920 but we only recovered about a hundred dead bodies as skeletal remains," Lanao del Sur Crisis Management Committee Spokesperson Zia Alonto Adiong said in a recent press briefing.

Adiong said this could delay rehabilitation efforts in the war-torn city, the provincial capital of Lanao del Sur that was the battleground of the ISIS-inspired Maute group and government forces for five months.

"You cannot reconstruct the main battle area if you still have there remains scattered around," Adiong said.

The military said retrieval teams cannot go into the war zone because thousands of improvised explosive devices have yet to be taken out.

Clearing operations are taking time as troops are still hunting down about 20 Maute stragglers, the military said.

"Kaya't medyo divided yung attention noong mga tropa natin (This divides out troops' attention)," Joint Task Group Ranao Deputy Commander Romeo Brawner said.

Soldiers target to clear the main battle area of all threats before yearend.

Adiong said that's when the massive retrieval operations can start, which may last up to six months. Authorities said they will try to identify the bodies and the unclaimed remains will be placed in a burial site.

Over 900 terrorists, 47 civilians, and 165 government troops were killed in Marawi since the fighting began on May 23, prompting President Rodrigo Duterte to declare martial law throughout Mindanao.

Duterte declared the liberation of Marawi on October 17.

The military terminated combat operations on October 23, but clashes had ensued - the latest was last November 1. Troops killed two Maute fighters, including the alleged right-hand man of slain terrorist leader Isnilon Hapilon.