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TERROR WARS
89 gunmen killed in Philippine urban battle: military
By Cecil MORELLA
Marawi, Philippines (AFP) May 31, 2017


Philippine military airstrikes kill 10 troops: defence chief
Manila (AFP) June 1, 2017 - Philippine military airstrikes aimed at Islamist militants who are battling soldiers in a southern city instead killed 10 troops and injured seven others, the defence secretary said on Thursday.

"A group of our military armed men were hit by our own airstrikes. Ten killed," Defence Secretary Delfin Lorenzana told reporters in Manila, adding the incident happened on Wednesday.

Security forces have been battling militants flying the black flags of the Islamic State (IS) group in Marawi, a major Muslim city in the predominantly Catholic Philippines, since Tuesday last week.

The military has bombed and fired rockets from attack helicopters throughout the conflict at the militants, who have been hiding in residential areas holding hostages.

About 2,000 civilians are also trapped in the militant-held areas, according to the local government.

Military chiefs had repeatedly said the assaults involved "precision" and "surgical" airstrikes, and assured they were not harming any of the trapped civilians or hostages.

"It's sad but sometimes it happens in the fog of war. The coordination was not properly done," Lorenzana said Thursday as he announced the deaths.

He told AFP later via text message that seven soldiers had also been wounded.

The clashes erupted when security forces raided a house to arrest Isnilon Hapilon, a veteran Filipino militant regarded as IS's leader in the Philippines. He is on the US government's list of most-wanted terrorists.

Authorities said they were taken by surprise when dozens of gunmen emerged to protect Hapilon and then went on a rampage through Marawi, which has a population of 200,000.

Most of the residents had fled the city but the International Committee of the Red Cross has repeatedly expressed deep concern for those who remained trapped, and called for a humanitarian ceasefire

"I think it's horrific for the civilian people who are in there and we really hope that both sides can agree that the civilians should be given the opportunity to come out," the deputy head of the ICRC's Philippine delegation, Martin Thalmann, told AFP in Marawi on Wednesday.

President Rodrigo Duterte declared martial law across the entire southern region of Mindanao in response to the crisis, which he described as the start of a major campaign by IS to establish a foothold in the Philippines.

Eighty-nine militants have been killed in the fighting, and the gunmen have murdered 19 civilians, the military said on Wednesday.

The announcement of the friendly fire deaths brings the number of security forces killed to 31, and the combined death toll to 139.

Philippine troops have killed 89 Islamist militants during more than a week of urban battles but a final showdown is expected to be fierce as the gunmen protect their leaders and hold hostages, authorities said Wednesday.

Attack helicopters fired rockets on Wednesday morning into parts of Marawi, a Muslim city in the south of the mainly Catholic Philippines, that were still controlled by the militants fighting under the black flag of the Islamic State (IS) group.

President Rodrigo Duterte declared martial law across the entire southern region of Mindanao in response to the crisis, which he described as the start of a major campaign by IS to establish a foothold in the Philippines.

Eighty-nine militants had been killed in the fighting and the amount of territory in the city that the remaining gunmen controlled had been cut to just 10 percent, military spokesman Brigadier-General Restituto Padilla said Wednesday.

However Padilla warned of more intense battles ahead, with the military believing three of the militants' main leaders were likely still in the city.

"That 10 percent is most likely the area that is heavily guarded and defended by any armed men if they are protecting any individual of high value," Padilla said.

The militants are also holding an unknown number of civilians hostage, according to Padilla and other authorities.

They initially took a priest and up to 14 other people hostage at the start of the crisis.

A video of the priest appeared on social media on Tuesday, in which he repeated the militants' demands to withdraw and said his captors were holding 240 people hostage.

Padilla said the number of people cited in the video as being held hostage could not be verified.

He insisted the release of the footage showed the militants were becoming increasingly desperate and said security forces would not back down.

"They are trapped, they are contained, they are in areas that they will never come up alive unless they surrender," Padilla said.

- 'Horrific' ordeal -

Another major complicating factor was the safety of about 2,000 residents who the local government said remained trapped in the militant-controlled areas.

The International Committee of the Red Cross called Wednesday for a humanitarian ceasefire to save them.

"I think it's horrific for the civilian people who are in there and we really hope that both sides can agree that the civilians should be given the opportunity to come out," the deputy head of the ICRC's Philippine delegation, Martin Thalmann, told AFP in Marawi.

Jenita Abanilla, 47, a laundrywoman, arrived exhausted and hungry at an evacuation centre in Marawi on Wednesday afternoon after heavily armed police rescued her on Wednesday.

"We covered the mouths of our children. We were afraid the gunmen would come in and kill us," Abanilla said, adding that she also feared being hit by the military's bombs.

Padilla said Wednesday the militants had murdered 19 civilians but insisted that the military's airstrikes had not killed any of the trapped residents.

Twenty-one members of the security forces had also died, Padilla said, bringing the combined death toll to 129.

The clashes erupted when security forces raided a house to arrest Isnilon Hapilon, a veteran Filipino militant regarded as IS's leader in the Philippines. He is on the US government's list of most-wanted terrorists.

Authorities said they were taken by surprise when dozens of gunmen emerged to protect Hapilon and then went on a rampage through Marawi, the Philippines' main Islamic city with a population of 200,000.

Hapilon was being protected by members of the local Maute group, a small band of militants that has declared allegiance to IS, according to the government.

Malaysians, Singaporean, Indonesian and other fighters had been involved in the unrest, according to the military.

Hapilon and the two brothers who lead the Maute group were still believed to be in Marawi, local military spokesman Lieutenant Colonel Jo-ar Herrera told reporters.

A Muslim separatist rebellion in the southern Philippines has killed more than 120,000 people since the 1970s.

The main Muslim rebel groups have signed accords with the government aimed at forging lasting peace, giving up their separatist ambitions in return for autonomy.

The Maute and other hardline groups have rejected the peace process.

TERROR WARS
Philippines warns Islamist militants to surrender or die
Marawi, Philippines (AFP) May 30, 2017
Philippine authorities on Tuesday warned Islamist militants occupying parts of a southern city to surrender or die, as attack helicopters pounded the gunmen's strongholds where up to 2,000 residents were feared trapped. More than 100 people have been confirmed killed in the conflict, which began last week when gunmen waving black flags of the Islamic State (IS) group rampaged through the mos ... read more

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