Philippines says 500 militants involved in siege

Posted June 02, 2017

The Philippine military airstrikes aimed at militants killed 10 of its soldiers and injured eight others, even as the government is struggling to take the southern Marawi city from the clutches of alleged Islamic State terrorists, the government officials said on 1 June.

Philippine Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana told media that "a group of our military armed men were hit by our own airstrikes".

Military operations suffered a setback on Wednesday when an aircraft bombed friendly forces, killing 11 soldiers and wounding seven. Sometimes the fog of war ...

Lorenzana said about 500 militants, including foreign fighters, joined the siege of Marawi, a mosque-studded city that is the heartland of the Islamic faith in the southern Philippines.

Rohan Gunaratna, a terrorism expert at Singapore's S. Rarajatnam School of International Studies, believes that IS and the smaller regional groups are working together to show their strength and declare a Philippine province part of the caliphate that IS says it created in the Middle East.

At least 5,000 members of the Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF) - a separatist Muslim militant organization that has signed a peace treaty with Manila - are positioned around Marawi ready to assist government forces, CNN Philippines reported Wednesday. Philippine troops have killed 89 Islamist militants during more than a week of urban battles but a final showdown is expected to be fierce as the gunmen protect their leaders and hold hostages, authorities said on May 31.

A battalion of marine soldiers landed in Marawi City on Thursday to augment the troops on the ground.

Shortly after the violence erupted President Rodrigo Duterte imposed martial law across the southern region of Mindanao, home to 20 million people, to quell what he said was an IS bid to establish a base in the mainly Catholic Philippines.

Up to 100 Islamist rebels are entrenched in several neighbourhoods in Marawi, and are holding an unknown number of civilians as hostages. Troops engaged rebel snipers, as helicopters circled, identifying targets.The military said rebels were using women and children as human shields. Padilla said militant leader Isnilon Hapilon is believed to still be in Marawi.

Hapilon, the militant leader wanted by the USA for his alleged involvement in kidnappings and bomb attacks that also targeted Americans in the Philippines, is still believed to be in Marawi.

"We still have more than one day so I'm sure the troops will do the best they can to accomplish the deadline", he said.

The militants have murdered 19 civilians, the military has said, while insisting none have died in any air assaults or the intense street-to-street battles.

"Mr. President, if you want me to kneel before you just to knock your heart in favor of our families who are crying out there in different places, for our relatives. we will do that", he said.