Picture for representation
Picture for representation Reuters

The Philippines government finally confirmed that the Maute militant group is using child soldiers armed with baby armalite rifles to fight soldiers in Marawi's battle zone.

A police official, who had joining foot soldiers in the battle zone moving from one house to another in search of Maute remnants, was caught by surprise when their group was able to encounter a 10-year-old Maute member holding a rifle.

The police official, who requested anonymity for security reasons, told Philippines media that when they were doing their door to door operations when they entered a dilapidated structure and encountered less than a dozen child warriors with age ranging from 10 to 16 years old.

According to the police officer investigating the child warrior recruitment, he said that these young children are trained to ambush the soldiers.

A number of motorcycles were also noted in the building where the children were taking refuge. Investigators later found out, the child soldiers, who came all the way from nearby municipalities, used these motorcycles to enter Marawi City.

The Philippines government and UNICEF based in Cotabato have been campaigning on the prevention of revolutionary organizations using children in the battlefield.

In a related development, 90% of Marawi's residents have already moved out to nearby city and municipalities and media described Marawi City as a ghost town where the economy is virtually crippled.

Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao Executive Secretary, Laisa Alamia, said that there are still 10% of the population who refused to leave Marawi and a number of them are caught in the crossfire.

Khye Amerol, one of the evacuees told International Business Times that some locals refused to leave Marawi because they want to secure their property from burglars.

The Philippines military continue to use airstrikes and samba tanks to put pressure on the Maute group to surrender while military spokesman Restituto Padilla appealed to some remaining Maute members to surrender.

"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," Restituto was quoted by GMA online.