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Maute group using 10-year-old child warriors in Marawi City

The Maute group is using child warriors as young as 10 years old, said a police officer involved in door-to-door clearing operations in Marawi City on Saturday.

In a report by Jiggy Manicad on 24 Oras, a police officer said troops involved in the clearing operations in Marawi City have encountered 10-year-old Maute warriors armed with M-16 baby armalite rifles.

"Kabataan lang ang pumuwesto diyan ah. Mula 10 years old hanggang 16," the policeman said.

"Kita mo hindi ka makapaniwala na 10 years old may dala-dalang baby M-16," he said.

He said the young Maute members are also involved in ambuscades.

Elite police and military troops on Saturday conducting clearing operations by checking each house and buildings in the city's downtown area.

The report said several snipers were encountered by troops clearing other areas in the city.

In a statement, Armed Forces of the Philippines spokesman Brig. Gen. Restituto Padilla said troops are trying to avoid "collateral damage" as the Maute group members have been "hiding and holding out inside private homes, government buildings and other facilities."

Padilla also said that as the Maute group continues to refuse to leave Marawi City, the AFP is constrained to conduct "surgical airstrikes" to clear the city of the terrorists.

"We desire to free Marawi City of these evil forces and make way for a peaceful Ramadan for our citizens there who have supported our efforts. We appeal for everyones understanding as we take the necessary steps to accomplish our mission and prevent the lost of more innocent lives and damage to private and public property," he added.

Presidential spokesman Ernesto Abella, meanwhile, appealed to Marawi City residents to be vigilant and cooperate with the military.

"Government troops proceed with their sustained precision operations in pursuit of the Maute group who have embedded themselves among innocent citizens," he said. "We call on our patriotic civilians  to remain vigilant and cooperate with the military."

Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (ARMM) executive secretary Atty. Laisa Alamia told radio dzBB earlier that 90 percent of the city's total population of 201,700 has been evacuated.

Alamia said only more than 1,000 more residents were still inside the city.

She said military troops clearing the city have been also asked to rescue the trapped residents.

President Rodrigo Duterte placed the entire Mindanao under martial law following the Maute group's attack in Marawi City last Tuesday. —ALG, GMA News