MANILA, Philippines (4th UPDATE) – The Philippine military said it has retaken another critical bridge in Marawi City on Thursday, August 31, as troops pushed forward against local terrorists to end the war that has dragged on for over 3 months.
Troops finally controlled Bayabao Bridge on Thursday, Lieutenant General Carlito Galvez, chief of the Western Mindanao Command, announced in Marawi.
Bayabao Bridge is often referred to by the military as the Banggolo Bridge because it goes right into the city's financial district, Banggolo, where the local terror groups strategically holed up.
Three soldiers were killed and 52 others were wounded in the military offensive, bringing the death toll among troops to 136, based on the latest report from the military. The war erupted on May 23. (READ: TIMELINE: Marawi clashes prompt martial law in all of Mindanao)
Banggolo Bridge is the 2nd of 3 critical bridges in the Marawi battle zone. Troops took control of Baloi Bridge – or what troops refer to as Mapandi Bridge – last month, on July 20.
The last bridge the troops need to retake is Masiu Bridge. It is located near Lake Lanao.
Joint Task Force Marawi spokesperson Captain Jo-ann Petinglay said most of the soldiers wounded on Thursday suffered minor injuries.
"The offensive on the eve of Eid'l Adha has been among the toughest so far. We are working to clear the remaining areas where the enemy is holding out," Brigadier General Restituto Padilla said in a statement on Friday, September 1.
"Following a short pause early today (during the morning prayers) to give due respect to the solemnity and significance of this day, the operations will continue without letup," he added.
The military said it has pinned down the terrorists to an area approximately 500 meters by 500 meters. But they are holding out in well-defended high rise buildings made of hard concrete that even air strikes cannot easily bring down.
Enemy snipers have made it difficult for troops to advance, while improvised explosive devices (IEDs) have slowed down clearing operations. (READ: Sniper and IEDs: Deadly combination in Marawi war zone)
The military has also retaken the Islamic Center or the "Grand Mosque," where the hostages were believed to have been kept during the first months of the war.
None of the hostages were found when the troops moved, however, as they are believed to have been moved to another area in the battle zone.
Editor's note: In an earlier version of this story, we mistakenly indicated that the affected area is 500 square kilometers. We have corrected it.