Philippines pounds militants as civilians found shot dead
Philippine forces found corpses in the streets of a besieged southern city on Sunday, including at least eight civilians who appeared to have been executed, as soldiers battled a weakened but still forceful group of militants linked to the Islamic State group.
The death toll from six days of fighting neared 100.
The crisis in Marawi, home to some 200,000 people, has grown increasingly dire as the militants show unexpected strength, fending off a military that has unleashed attack helicopters, armoured vehicles and scores of soldiers.
The violence prompted President Rodrigo Duterte on Tuesday to declare 60 days of martial law in the southern Philippines, where a Muslim separatist rebellion has raged for decades. But the recent bloodshed in Marawi has raised fears that extremism is growing as smaller militant groups unify and align themselves with the Islamic State group.
Much of the city is a no-go zone, but as the military advances and more civilians escape, the scope of the battle is becoming clear.
Thousands of civilians have streamed out of Marawi and more than 2,000 were still trapped inside the city. Many sent desperate text messages begging to be rescued and reporting that their homes had been destroyed, said Zia Alonto Adiong, an official in Lanao del Sur, one of the country’s poorest provinces.
“Have mercy on us, we don’t have any more water to drink,’’ read one of the messages, sent to a hotline set up for trapped residents.
The Associated Press was shown the messages by relief workers at a provincial government complex in Marawi.