Philippine troops bomb Islamist militants in besieged Marawi city
Authorities said ending the crisis was proving hard because the militants, who have pledged allegiance to Islamic State, had planted bombs in the streets and were holding hostages.world Updated: May 25, 2017 22:17 IST
Philippine security forces bombed residential areas in Marawi city on Thursday as they battled Islamist militants who were holding hostages and reported to have murdered at least 11 civilians.
An initial rampage on Tuesday by gunmen who have pledged allegiance to the Islamic State prompted President Rodrigo Duterte to impose martial law across the southern third of the Philippines.
Authorities said ending the crisis was proving extremely hard because, although there were only 30 to 40 gunmen remaining, 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 an AFP reporter in the city, and the military said it had dropped bombs on residential neighbourhoods.
“We are using surgical airstrikes,” local military spokesman Lt Col Jo-Ar Herrera told reporters in Marawi shortly 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 800 km south of Manila, but Herrera said those who remained had been warned to get out of the 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.
Eleven soldiers, two policemen and 31 militants have died in the three days of fighting, according to authorities. Thirty-nine soldiers have been wounded, the military said.
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 had set up.
Local GMA television network showed images of nine bullet-riddled bodies lying in a field with their hands tied together.
SITE Intelligence Group, which monitors jihadists online, said IS claimed killing more than 70 soldiers in Marawi and 10 more in the remote southern island of Jolo. The claims could not be independently confirmed.