Philippine troops pound Islamists as death toll tops 300

2017-06-17 14:03
Philippine SWAT members patrol a neighbourhood where evacuees from Marawi City are temporarily living. (Noel Cellius, AFP)

Philippine SWAT members patrol a neighbourhood where evacuees from Marawi City are temporarily living. (Noel Cellius, AFP)

Multimedia   ·   User Galleries   ·   News in Pictures Send us your pictures  ·  Send us your stories

Marawi - Philippine troops pounded Islamist militants holding parts of southern Marawi city with air strikes and artillery on Saturday as more soldiers were deployed and the death toll rose to more than 300 after nearly a month of fighting.

Fires erupted and dark plumes of smoke rose from enclaves still occupied by the militants as the air force staged bombing runs to support ground troops struggling to dislodge the fighters from entrenched positions, AFP journalists at the scene said.

MG520 attack helicopters and FA50 fighter jets were used in the raids, while sustained bursts of automatic gunfire could be heard in the distance, indicating the intensity of the fighting.

Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte, appearing in public for the first time in nearly a week, said the presence of foreign fighters from the Islamic State group (ISIS) among the militants in Marawi have made the fighting more difficult.

"You have a conglomeration there of ISIS fighters from Syria, Indonesia, Malaysia, Sri Lankan and Arabs," he told soldiers during a visit to a military camp in Butuan city, northeast of Marawi, in the southern region of Mindanao.

"We have to use the air assets because we are up against fighters from the Middle East and they have learned the art of brutal killing - they will burn you, behead you," he said.

Duterte's absence had fuelled speculation about the state of the 72-year-old leader's health.

Also on Saturday, 400 fresh troops were airlifted to Marawi from the central Philippines, ANC television said quoting military officials.

Television footage showed the soldiers bidding goodbye to their families before being flown to the conflict zone.

Hundreds of militants - supported by foreign fighters - rampaged through Marawi, the largely Christian Philippines' most important Muslim city, on May 23 waving black ISIS flags. 

Duterte declared martial law in Mindanao to counter the attack, which he said was part of a plan by ISIS to establish a base in the country.

Such a base could be crucial for ISIS' ambitions to establish a caliphate in Southeast Asia, analysts say.

The military has said at least eight foreign fighters from Chechnya, Yemen, Malaysia and Indonesia were among the militants killed in the Marawi fighting.

Hundreds of thousands displaced

The overall death toll rose to 329 with 310 - 225 militants, 59 soldiers and 26 civilians - killed in the conflict, according to government figures.

The 19 others deaths came from those displaced by the fighting, said Mujiv Hataman, the governor of a Muslim autonomous region in the south.

Hataman said the deaths among the evacuees were caused by severe dehydration from diarrhoea.

More than 309 000 people have been been displaced in Marawi and nearby areas, the government said. Many have fled to the homes of friends and relatives and others are in evacuation centres.

"Our forces are moving towards the heart of the enemy," regional military spokesman Jo-ar Herrera told reporters in Marawi on Saturday, referring to the heavy fighting under urban conditions.

"It's the centre of gravity. This is where the location of their command and control, the leadership of the enemy."

Ground commanders estimate "more than 100" militants are still holding out in at least four villages in Marawi, military spokesperson Brigadier General Restituto Padilla said in Manila.

But he said the figures were based on estimates a few days ago "so this number could have dropped significantly".

Padilla said in an interview with DZMM radio the military would no longer give any self-imposed deadlines on when the militants would be driven out after failing to meet previous ones they had set.

"We are trying our best to expedite [driving them out] without unduly compromising the lives of our soldiers and at the same time the remaining civilians there," he said.

Read more on:    rodrigo duterte  |  philippines

Join the conversation!

24.com encourages commentary submitted via MyNews24. Contributions of 200 words or more will be considered for publication.

We reserve editorial discretion to decide what will be published.
Read our comments policy for guidelines on contributions.
NEXT ON NEWS24X

Inside News24

 
/World
 

For the love of Corgis!

WATCH: 35 Corgi's to make your day! If they’re good enough for the Queen of England they’re good enough for us.

 
 

Paws

Can we communicate with our pets?
8 great natural remedies for your pet
Buying a puppy? Don’t get scammed!
WATCH: These funny animal videos will make you LOL!
Traffic Alerts
Traffic
There are new stories on the homepage. Click here to see them.
 
English
Afrikaans
isiZulu

Hello 

Create Profile

Creating your profile will enable you to submit photos and stories to get published on News24.


Please provide a username for your profile page:

This username must be unique, cannot be edited and will be used in the URL to your profile page across the entire 24.com network.

Settings

Location Settings

News24 allows you to edit the display of certain components based on a location. If you wish to personalise the page based on your preferences, please select a location for each component and click "Submit" in order for the changes to take affect.




Facebook Sign-In

Hi News addict,

Join the News24 Community to be involved in breaking the news.

Log in with Facebook to comment and personalise news, weather and listings.