Gov't death toll in Marawi siege rises to 168

MANILA, Philippines – A DNA test showed that one of the decomposed bodies retrieved from Marawi City belongs to Philippine Marine Private Alejandro Balean, who went missing during one of the fiercest battles during the siege.

Balean, along with two other soldiers who died from injuries, increased the government death toll in the 5-month-long siege to 168. Seven of the fatalities were cops and the rest, soldiers.

Balean was given military honors Tuesday night, January 9, when his body arrived at the Villamor Air Base in Pasay City from Iligan City. 

Balean's death also brought to 14 the number of soldiers who died in the heartbreaking battle involving Marines on June 9, 2017, when they were pinned down by Maute terrorist fighters at Baloi Bridge, or Mapandi Bridge to locals. 

The Marines were responsible for the areas on both sides of the Agus River. They were clearing houses around Mapandi Bridge when molotov cocktails were thrown at their defensive position, forcing them to come out and become open targets for enemy snipers. (WATCH: The battle for Marawi's bridges)

It was the bloodiest day of the war.

"Accounts from the survivors said that Pvt Balean fell into the Agus River while their platoon was maneuvering against the enemy. Attempts by his colleagues to fetch him out of the water proved futile against the strong current and hail of gunfire," said the Philippine Marines in a statement.

Balean fought alongside officers 1st Lieutenant Frederick Savellano and 1st Lieutenant Raymundo Abad. 

Two months later, in August 2017, his decomposing body was retrieved by the police, which reported it to the military because they found the cadaver wearing a soldier's uniform. 

It would take another 5 months for a DNA test to confirm his identity. It matched the samples taken from his siblings.

– Rappler.com