Army cap­tures key IS base

Bangkok Post - - ASEAN -

MARAWI: The Philip­pine mil­i­tary said yes­ter­day it had cap­tured the com­mand cen­tre of Is­lamic State (IS) sup­port­ers who have be­sieged a south­ern city for nearly four months.

Se­cu­rity forces have en­gaged in fe­ro­cious street-to-street com­bat and launched airstrikes in their ef­forts to ex­pel the fight­ers from the city of Marawi, in a con­flict that has raised fears that the IS is look­ing to es­tab­lish a South­east Asian base in the Philip­pines.

The mil­i­tary said it had cap­tured the mil­i­tants’ con­trol cen­tre in a deadly bat­tle that be­gan on Sat­ur­day in a mosque and an­other build­ing.

“This enor­mous [mil­i­tary] gain fur­ther weak­ened the ter­ror­ist group by deny­ing them their erst­while com­mand and con­trol hub,” mil­i­tary chief Gen Ed­uardo Ano said.

“As fol­low up and clear­ing oper­a­tions con­tinue, we ex­pect the en­emy to yield more pre­vi­ously oc­cu­pied po­si­tions, but not with­out a fight — we are ready for that.”

It was re­ported that hun­dreds of armed ex­trem­ists fly­ing the black flag of the IS move­ment in the Mid­dle East oc­cu­pied Marawi, the Is­lamic cap­i­tal of the mainly Catholic Philip­pines, on May 23.

More than 800 mil­i­tants, gov­ern­ment troops and civil­ians have been killed in the con­flict, which has forced thou­sands to flee their homes and de­stroyed large parts of the once-bustling city.

Pres­i­dent Ro­drigo Duterte has de­ployed thou­sands of troops and im­posed mar­tial law across the south­ern third of the coun­try to deal with the cri­sis, while the mil­i­tary has launched a US-backed air cam­paign against the mil­i­tants.

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