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[box type=”default” size=”large”] She and her 3 young kids hiked for 5 hours to next town [/box]

COTABATO CITY, Philippines (PNA) — A Maranaw housewife recalled her scary “eye-to-eye” contact with three or four of the terrorists who attacked Marawi City as she and her children fled the city by hiking for five hours to next town in Lanao del Sur.

“They (armed men) were not from Marawi, they looked like Middle Easterners, some were handsome, Caucasian-skinned (maputi), long nose but they never talk, they just give us a sharp look, signaling us to continue walking ahead,” said Amalia Kasim, 45, a housewife and resident of Luksadatu, Barangay Basak Malutlut, Marawi City.

Amalia recalled how her scary the day started. She said she just arrived home at 2 p.m. from the market as her family prepared for the month of Ramadhan.

As she came close to her house, gunfire erupted and never stopped until the next morning when she and her family left for Saguiaran town, just outside the city.

Elias, her husband, was not home when the fighting started at 2:30p.m. “People were running everywhere from different directions, some telling us to evacuate because war is unfolding.”

Seeing neighbors fleeing, she decided to evacuate, too, carrying valuables and her three young children, aged 5, 10 and 12, in tow.

“Have you seen Elias,” Amalia asked neighbors as they walked toward Iligan City but got no positive answer. “I could not find my husband, his cellphone is out,” she recalled, adding she had experienced fleeing in the past but “this is the most horrifying.”

Amalia said the armed men of the Maute Group were at every corner of the road in the village.

“They gave us time to evacuate from 6 a.m. to 9 a.m., they allowed us to walk without looking at them….I greeted them Assalamu Alaykum (peace be with you) and they responded Allaykum a Salaam (peace be with you too),” she said, adding they kept yelling “Allahu Akbar! (God is Great!)” while raising their guns.

“I cried, my children cried too, looking for their father. I thought he was already dead until I saw him Thursday (May 25) morning in Saguiaran driving our old car, then we traveled to Cotabato City,” she said.

Elias, in a separate interview, said he went to a police detachment at 4 p.m. on May 23 to report about his missing family. “When I was in the detachment, gun fight erupted anew so I ducked and took cover, I could no longer leave the outpost as the shooting was happening in the streets.”

“I witnessed the firefight near the police outpost, the police kept firing their guns as I was on the ground but I heard the Maute armed men yelling Allahu Akbar,” Elias recalled.

Elias said he stayed overnight in the police detachment. He described the surrounding as “like New Year’s revelry,” with gunfire reverberating. “Non-stop firing of guns,” he said of his evening at the police guard house.

When soldiers entered the city Wednesday afternoon, he bravely drove toward Saguiaran and reunited with his family.

The couple and their children are now in a relative’s home in Cotabato City. They received food assistance from the ARMM government.

Seven non-Muslim students of a Catholic School in Tacurong City were among those trapped when fighting broke out in Marawi. They were there for only nine days to review for board exams for social works.

“Our Muslim classmates lent us Muslim dress and head cover and told us to memorize a Muslim prayer in case terrorists come inside the dormitory,” Jay Gee Villaruz, 20.

Villaruz and his six female companions stayed in the dormitory of Mindanao State University (MSU) while the terrorists were outside. “We did not go out of the dorm, our Muslim classmates told us not to make any noise at night to make it appear the dorm is empty,” he recalled.

“Our mobile phones in silent mode, we were on the floor most of the time because the terrorist snipers might see us,” he added.

Villaruz said they were rescued in the morning of May 25 when soldiers arrived and brought them to the Lanao del Sur provincial capitol.

“We thought it was the end of the road for us, I will never forget those horrifying, hair-raising one day and two nights of our lives,” Villaruz, now in Tacurong City, said.)

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