Forty sets of remains recovered from the battle zone in the southern Philippine city of Marawi were buried in a public cemetery on Oct. 5.
It was the third mass burial of people believed to be victims of the four-month-old conflict in the country’s only Islamic majority city.
One other set of bones not buried is believed to belong to a police inspector killed by gunmen who attacked the city on May 23.
Police officials said that of the 40 sets of bones buried, 25 were those of suspected gunmen who claimed to have links with the so-called Islamic State.
“We can say that they are [Islamic State] fighters because they were wearing black uniforms and they have pistol belts and other indicators that they were fighters,” said Senior Superintendent Mary Leocy Mag-abo of the police’s crime laboratory.
Jelbin Darantinao, a provincial government worker, said burying the remains was “kind of eerie.”
“I am a Christian and I believe that we have souls so I silently said to them while operating the backhoe loader [to fill in the graves] that ‘I am only doing my job, I’m just following orders’, please don’t scare me,” he said.
Government spokesman Ernesto Abella, meanwhile, announced that 17 hostages were rescued on Oct. 5 while eight terrorists had surrendered and turned over another nine hostages to the military.
He said ongoing military operations are focused on rescuing remaining hostages. It is unclear how many other hostages the militants hold.
The four-month old conflict has displaced close to 400,000 people, and resulted in the death of more than 900 others, including 753 terrorists, 155 soldiers and police, and 47 civilians.
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