Muslim militants holed up for more than three weeks in Marawi, southern Philippines, have been executing civilians trapped in bombed-out districts in the city, officials said yesterday.
Lieutenant-Colonel Emmanuel Garcia, civil relations group head of the Western Mindanao Command, said five men were gunned down on Monday by militants linked to the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS).
The men were hiding in a house with 13 others when the gunmen arrived at the house. Five escaped, while eight were taken as hostages.
A video posted on the chat app Telegram by ISIS' Amaq news agency showed the militants executing six other men.
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It was not clear when this took place, or who the men were, though they were tagged in the video as "Christians".
Rescuers said many of the 500 to 600 civilians still trapped in at least four districts in Marawi were dying of hunger. Mr Zia Alonto Adiong, spokesman for a crisis management committee, said he received word that one child had died and that the family had started eating blankets to survive.
Nearly all of Marawi's entire population of about 200,000 had already fled. But hundreds are still trapped or being held hostage in combat areas controlled by the militants since they overran the city on May 23 in a bid to establish an ISIS "province".
Most of those who are trapped are running out of food and water. An 81-year-old retired judge was close to dying of hunger and dehydration when he was rescued last week.
The militants are, meanwhile, using their hostages as mules, cooks and human shields, according to Lieutenant-Colonel Jay-Ar Herrera, spokesman for Task Force Marawi.
Mr Alonto said with rescue operations held back by enemy snipers, machine guns and explosives, civilians caught in the crossfire would just have to make a run for it. "Either they die inside the house, or they die trying to get out," he said.
At dawn yesterday, five policemen and the five Christians they were protecting walked, crawled and sprinted through a gauntlet of sniper fire to reach a bridge held by government troops.
For nearly three weeks, they had survived on dried noodles, canned goods and rice, and had to go on "suicide missions" at night to find water, ducking militants who were at times just a few metres away.
Armed forces spokesman Restituto Padilla said militants from the ISIS-linked Maute and Abu Sayyaf groups still controlled 20 per cent of Marawi, more than twice the area the military cited last week.
Lieutenant-General Carlito Galvez, head of the Western Mindanao command, said the insurgents had four of Marawi's 96 districts.
"The four (districts) are really their stronghold. The affected is more or less 10, where they can manoeuvre. But their stronghold is only four," he said.
Mr Ernesto Abella, President Rodrigo Duteret's spokesman, told reporters: "It seems the resistance is dwindling."
But he declined to offer another deadline. "I can only give calibrated answers. I can't give absolute answers at this stage," he said.