Philippine airstrike kills 11 soldiers in besieged city

Posted June 02, 2017

Seven other soldiers were wounded on Wednesday, May 31, when two air force SF-260 close air support planes dropped bombs on a target in the heart of Marawi City, defence secretary Delfin Lorenzana told a news conference.

Military spokesman Restituto Padilla said an investigation would be held to establish how the air force plane killed ground troops.

"It's sad but sometimes that happens, sometimes in the tug of war".

Lorenzana said militants who were Saudi, Malaysian, Indonesian, Yemeni and Chechen were among eight foreigners killed fighting with the Maute rebels.

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

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At least 5,000 members of the Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF) - a separatist Muslim militant organization that has signed a peace treaty with Manila - are positioned around Marawi ready to assist government forces, CNN Philippines reported Wednesday.

Government forces are battling ISIS-linked militants for control of the city, displacing at least 70,000 residents and leaving 140 people dead.

Duterte declared martial law in the Mindanao region, the southern third of the Philippines, and poured in troops backed by airstrikes, artillery fire and tanks to crush the urban insurrection. "All of them will be used against the Maute ISIS", Lorenzana said.

In an online plea earlier in the week, Teresito Suganob, a Marawi priest who had been abducted by militants, appealed to President Rodrigo Duterte to halt air strikes and withdraw government forces from the city.

Padilla raised the death toll in the incident to 11 and said rebel snipers have been targeting ground troops as well as army helicopters.

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"This thing that we see today is the first time that any terror organization in Southeast Asia has taken the bold step to actually overtake an entire territory", said Jasminder Singh, a senior terrorism analyst at the S. Rajaratnam School of International Studies in Singapore.

"It will be the call of the ground commander if they need the strikes pero medyo limitahan muna natin 'yung strike to the aircraft that can deliver accurately", said Lorenzana, the martial law administrator in Mindanao. He said that militant leader Isnilon Hapilon is believed to be still in Marawi.

Duterte said the Maute group was being given too much credit, and that the occupation of Marawi was the work of Islamic State, and planned long ago.

"Mr. President, if you want me to kneel before you just to knock your heart in favor of our families who are crying out there in different places, for our relatives. we will do that", he said.

"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.

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