'Friendly fire' kills 11 soldiers and wounds seven in Philippines

Author

02 June, 2017

The army insists the drawn-out fight is not a true sign of the militants' strength, and that the military has held back to spare civilians' lives.

Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte answered by declaring martial law in the region and launching a major offensive on the city, saying he was concerned that the southern Mindanao area could become a hotbed for Islamist extremism.

Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana is sticking to his self-imposed deadline to finish the crisis in Marawi by Friday, June 2. It appears that the military record still does not include the 10 deaths from the airstrikes.

But the military dismissed the video as propaganda.

"We are on the lookout, we are intensely guarding the borders so that no foreigners would be able to reinforce them", said Dela Rosa.

Brig. Gen. Restituto Padilla said the airstrikes on Wednesday injured seven other soldiers.

The Islamists retaliated by seizing part of the city and torching a police station, a school, a prison and a church, where they kidnapped a priest and 13 parishioners, who they are still holding hostage.

Father Teresito Suganob in a militant's video.

Authorities had earlier portrayed the siege of Marawi, as a bloody response to a botched military operation to capture wanted terrorist Isnilon Hapilon.

"We call on the Maute group that claims to bear arms in the name of a merciful and benevolent God - the very same God we Christians worship and adore - to do the One God true honor by the mercy and benevolence that are two of our God's most exalted attributes", said Archbishop Socrates Buenaventura Villegas of Lingayen-Dagupan, president of the Filipino bishops' conference.

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The unrest has boosted fears that the Islamic State group's violent ideology is gaining a foothold in the country's restive southern islands, where Muslim separatist rebellions have raged for almost half a century.

A displaced resident of Marawi city puts his baby to sleep at an evacuation center in Balo-i township, Lanao del Norte province in southern Philippines.

On Thursday, 400 marines from Manila were deployed to Marawi, which remains in lockdown with continuing clashes between government forces and Maute, a local group linked to Islamic State.

Ano also told AP that the extremists plotted to set Marawi ablaze and kill as many Christians in nearby Iligan city on Ramadan to mimic the violence seen by the world in Syria and Iraq.

"In the end their relatives and everyday people may be the ones who will kill them", he said.

More than 20 of the dead are believed to be civilians.

He said there were about 500 militants at the start of the unrest and only between 50 and 100 were believed to still be in Marawi.

Duterte has vowed to drive out the radicals from the city by all means necessary, and to halt the spread of radical Islam in Asia's largest Catholic-majority nation. We will attend to their bereaved families and provide comfort and solace to them during this trying time.

"They do it by killing people, invoking the name of God and that is a very bad ideology".

"I think it's horrific for the civilian people who are in there and we really hope that both sides can agree that the civilians should be given the opportunity to come out", the deputy head of the ICRC's Philippine delegation, Martin Thalmann, told AFP in Marawi.


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