Tuesday, 17 July, 2018

Philippine military: City siege was start of extremist plan

Bessie Robbins | 31 May, 2017, 01:54

Philippine forces pressed their offensive to drive out militants linked.

Philippine authorities on Tuesday urged Islamist militants occupying parts of a southern city to surrender for the sake of trapped civilians, as attack helicopters pounded the gunmen's strongholds with rockets. "There is still a chance to lay down your arms", military spokesman Brigadier-General Restituto Padilla said on DZBB radio.

(AP Photo/Bullit Marquez). Government troops head to the frontline as fighting with Muslim militants in Marawi city enters its second week, Tuesday, May 30, 2017, in the southern Philippines. The Phlippine security forces are now flushing out remnants of the militants who are believed to be holding civilians as hostages.

He said Suganob's mention of people with him made it appear that they are also alive.

"We can control who comes in and who comes out, who moves around and who doesn't, and we are trying to isolate these pockets of resistance that have remained", Padilla said.

Suganob said in the video that he was taken prisoner along with a professor from Mindanao State University, two female church workers and seven teachers.

In a message to members of the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) and the Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF), Duterte said "if this martial law lasts and you want to help us fight for the republic".

The violence followed an unsuccessful army raid that attempted to capture militant commander Isnilon Hapilon, who has been designated by the Islamic State group as its leader in the Philippines.

Marawi, a mosque-studded city about 800 kilometers (500 miles) southeast of Manila, is regarded as the heartland of the Islamic faith on southern Mindanao island.

Ano, the military chief, told The Associated Press on Tuesday that the extremists had plotted to set Marawi ablaze entirely to project IS's influence.

Some communities resemble ghost towns.

Sporadic gunfire erupted throughout the day as helicopters flew over the city, a witness told CNN.

The Philippines, which is majority Catholic, has faced Muslim separatist movements for decades in Mindanao with its significant Muslim population.

The following day, several local media outlets, such as ABS-CBN and The Philippine Star, reported that the militant group was holding at least 40 people hostage in an unspecified location, but the military had retaken control of the hospital and city hall.

Duterte has suggested he might extend martial law until the end of the year or impose it nationwide, a possibility that has alarmed critics of the government and survivors of the dictatorship of President Ferdinand Marcos.

The military however insists the drawn-out fight in Marawi is not a true sign of the militants' strength, and that they even held back to spare civilian lives.

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

The gunmen were being backed by foreign fighters, including Malaysians, Indonesians and Singaporeans, authorities said.

Militants' ongoing resistance suggested Hapilon, who has a $5 million Federal Bureau of Investigation bounty on his head, was still in the city, the Philippines military said.

The AFP spokesperson added that Maute Group losses are placed at 61 with 42 of these being confirmed through body count and the remaining 19 by eye witness reports.

The fighters' support network in Marawi remains unclear, though the power of one militant group - the Mautes - has grown in recent years. "They simply (are asking) to just withdraw your forces away from Lanao del Sur and Marawi City and to stop the air strikes, your air attacks and cannons", said Sunganob.


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