Heavy fight­ing leaves 11 civil­ians dead, 12 to 15 from church taken hostage

New Straits Times - - News -

PHILIP­PINE se­cu­rity forces bombed a south­ern city yes­ter­day as they bat­tled mil­i­tants who were hold­ing hostages and re­ported to have mur­dered at least 11 civil­ians.

An ini­tial ram­page by the gun­men, who have pledged al­le­giance to the Is­lamic State group, through the mainly Mus­lim city of Marawi on Tues­day prompted Pres­i­dent Ro­drigo Duterte to im­pose mar­tial law across the south­ern third of the coun­try.

Au­thor­i­ties said end­ing the cri­sis was prov­ing ex­tremely hard be­cause, although there were only 30 to 40 re­main­ing gun­men, the mil­i­tants were mov­ing nim­bly through homes, had planted bombs in the streets and were hold­ing hostages.

In­tense gun­fight­ing could be heard con­stantly through­out the day, ac­cord­ing to a re­porter in the city, and the mil­i­tary said it had dropped bombs on res­i­den­tial neigh­bour­hoods.

“We are us­ing sur­gi­cal airstrikes,” lo­cal mil­i­tary spokesman Lieu­tenant-Colonel Jo-Ar Her­rera said be­fore big clouds of black smoke rose from a bombed area near the pro­vin­cial gov­ern­ment build­ing.

Most of Marawi's 200,000 res­i­dents had fled the city, which is about 800km south of Manila, but Her­rera said those who re­mained had been warned to get out of ar­eas where there was bomb­ing and fight­ing.

“We are re­quest­ing our peo­ple in Marawi to go to safe places... and to stay in­doors,” he said.

Five sol­diers, two po­lice­men and 13 mil­i­tants had died in the three days of fight­ing, ac­cord­ing to au­thor­i­ties.

Her­rera said two civil­ians had also been killed in­side a hospi­tal that the gun­men had oc­cu­pied on Tues­day, and the mil­i­tary was in­ves­ti­gat­ing re­ports that nine peo­ple had been mur­dered at a check­point the mil­i­tants set up.

Lo­cal GMA tele­vi­sion net­work showed im­ages of nine bul­let-rid­dled bod­ies ly­ing in a field with their hands tied to­gether.

Duterte said on Wed­nes­day that one of the po­lice­men killed was sim­i­larly caught at a check­point set up by the mil­i­tants, who then be­headed him.

The mil­i­tants are also hold­ing be­tween 12 and 15 Catholic hostages ab­ducted from a church, ac­cord­ing to the lo­cal bishop, Ed­win Dela Pena.

An en­raged Duterte, who was in Moscow to meet Rus­sian Pres­i­dent Vladimir Putin, de­clared mar­tial law shortly af­ter the fight­ing erupted and cut short his trip to fly home and deal with the cri­sis.

“It is bru­tal­ity, cru­elty,” Duterte said on Wed­nes­day af­ter fly­ing back to Manila.

Duterte said mar­tial law was re­quired through­out the south­ern re­gion of Min­danao, home to 20 mil­lion peo­ple, to stop the ris­ing threat of hard­line mil­i­tants aligned to IS.

Duterte said on Wed­nes­day that he might im­pose mar­tial law through­out the rest of the coun­try if he be­lieved the ter­ror­ism threat was spread­ing. The pres­i­dent, who had waged a con­tro­ver­sial war on drugs that claimed thou­sands of lives, warned mar­tial law would be “harsh” and sim­i­lar to mil­i­tary rule im­posed by dic­ta­tor Fer­di­nand Mar­cos a gen­er­a­tion ago. AFP

Page 1 pic: Philip­pine sol­diers as­sault­ing mil­i­tants in Marawi City yes­ter­day.


Smoke ris­ing from a mar­ket in Marawi City in the Philip­pines af­ter fight­ing be­tween gov­ern­ment troops and mil­i­tants. (Right) A soldier tak­ing a boy to safety .

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