Published: Fri, June 02, 2017
World Media | By Joan Schultz

Philippines says 500 militants involved in siege


Defence Minister Delfin Lorenzana said two SF-260 plans had dropped bombs on Islamic State targets in the city centre, and that it was "very sad" that they had hit some of their own troops in the process.

Brigadier General Restituto Padilla told the media here that the soldiers were killed and wounded in airstrikes aimed at Islamist militants on Wednesday, Xinhua news agency reported.

Padilla said the military has ordered an investigation of the friendly fire, which reflects the difficulty faced by government forces to contain the insurrection despite their overwhelming number and firepower.

"Sometimes mistake happens. And we hope those mistakes do not happen and nangyari nga".

He said "there could be more" slain foreign terrorists that authorities have not identified.

Marawi is a densely populated city of 200,000 on the island of Mindanao, home to much of the nation's Muslim majority.

Lorenzana also warned that many militants may have escaped, despite checkpoints throughout the city and surrounding it.

A battalion of marine soldiers landed in Marawi City on Thursday to augment the troops on the ground.

President Rodrigo Duterte is concerned radical ideology is spreading in the southern Philippines and it could become a haven for militants forced out of Iraq and Syria.

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A tragic friendly fire incident in the southern Philippines has cast doubts over military assurances that a victory in the ongoing fight against Muslim militants in Marawi is close at hand.

The government's latest count added that 43,733 families or 218,665 individuals already moved out of Marawi and are now staying either in evacuation centers or with their relatives in nearby towns, cities, and provinces.

It remains unclear whether the jet's bombs landed on the wrong position or the ground troops had entered the location without updating those in the air, but Lorenzana said signs pointed to "pilot error".

Air strikes will not be halted over the incident, Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) spokesman Brig.

The Philippines Justice Department has issued warrants for more than 100 members of the Maute group and the Abu Sayyaf terrorist organization, both of which are believed to be involved in the fighting in Marawi.

Adding to concerns about the rising threat of IS, Lorenzana said militants from Saudi Arabia, Chechnya, Yemen, Malaysia and Indonesia were among the dead.

Padilla said 960 civilians have been rescued and an estimated 1,000 residents remain trapped.

"We continuously appeal to the chain of command.to refrain from using airstrikes", Zia Alonto Adiong, a local politician and spokesman for the provincial crisis management committee said. "I will not talk to anybody", he said on Wednesday.

The attack began last week as the Philippine police attempted to raid the hideout of Isnilon Hapilon, the head of Abu Sayyaf.

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