Friday, 22 September, 2017

'Friendly fire' kills 11 soldiers and wounds seven in Philippines

Government forces are using helicopters to attack pockets of Marawi city where officials say 89 Islamist militants have been killed but remaining gunmen are putting up strong resistance and holding hostages 'Friendly fire' kills 11 soldiers and wounds seven in Philippines
Wilma Wheeler | 02 June, 2017, 02:24

The government has declared martial law in the southern Philippines, and security forces have locked down Marawi to prevent the fighting from spilling over into neighboring areas.

On May 23, heavily-armed militants attacked the city of about 200,000 people when the military was searching for a leader of Abu Sayyaf hidden in the city. The authenticity could not be independently verified.Military spokesman Restituto Padilla said the accidental bombing would not deter the government from defeating the militants."The risk.is very much in the heart of every soldier", he said."He knows where we are entering into". Hence, we employed armor, artillery, and airpower capabilities in support to our infantry units to breach the fortified walls, decks, and underground of buildings constructed to be virtual fortresses of the Maute Group, he said.

Still, the fighters have turned out to be remarkably well-armed and resilient.

It will likely take weeks, if not months, before the Philippine government takes control of the situation since the ongoing violence has already forced thousands to flee Marawi to seek refuge elsewhere. Lorenzana also warned that many militants may have escaped, despite checkpoints throughout the city and surrounding it. Hapilon is wanted by US law enforcement, but dozens of militants took to the streets to defend him and rampaged through Marawi.

Malaysiakini will be 18 this year.

Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte answered by declaring martial law in the region and launching a major offensive on the city, saying he was concerned that the southern Mindanao area could become a hotbed for Islamist extremism.

Some observers suspect that the radical militants may have taken over the city just before Ramadan in an effort to prove themselves to ISIS and demonstrate that their groups represent legitimate Southeast Asian affiliates.

Last week, two suicide bombings in Jakarta, Indonesia, killed three police officers, an attack claimed by IS.

Lorenzana, appearing in a Palace press conference, confirmed that the Islamic State-linked suspects come from five countries, including Malaysia, Saudi Arabia, and Chechnya.

"When the people from Marawi see foreign fighters..." Marawi is regarded as the heartland of the Islamic faith on Mindanao island. About 100 militants, troops and civilians have been killed. Maute snipers in the city fired on the army.

Muslim rebels have been waging a separatist rebellion in the south of the predominantly Roman Catholic nation for decades. Amid continuing poverty and other social ills, restiveness among minority Muslims has continued.

Duterte may also have to revisit his earlier threat to reject, in light of disagreement on human rights issues, grants from the European Union, which has heavily invested in the Mindanao peace process. He now heads an alliance of at least 10 smaller militant groups, including the Maute. "While many fear martial law because of its negative connotations in the past, we should look at the present facts with a sober perspective", he said.

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