Philip­pines pounds mil­i­tants as civil­ians found shot dead

Cape Breton Post - - World -

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.

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