Battle for Marawi to end soon: Philippine army

Philippine soldiers building houses for families displaced by the conflict in Marawi. So far, 47 civilians have been killed and large parts of the city have been destroyed.
Philippine soldiers building houses for families displaced by the conflict in Marawi. So far, 47 civilians have been killed and large parts of the city have been destroyed.PHOTO: EPA-EFE

MARAWI • Philippine troops yesterday bombed militants loyal to the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS) group who have held out for more than four months in the southern city of Marawi, saying that the conflict would be over "very soon".

Yesterday had been a target date previously set by the army on which the fighting in Marawi would end. The army said the conflict has killed more than 1,000 people.

Troops have missed previous deadlines to flush out the militants, whom the authorities said intended to establish a local ISIS caliphate.

Yesterday, FA-50 fighter jets flew over Marawi as soldiers fought the militants house to house in an area which has now shrunk to about 2ha, a military spokesman said.

"We are hoping that we will end this Marawi siege very soon," Colonel Romeo Brawner, deputy commander of the task force battling the militants, told reporters.

Pro-ISIS gunmen occupied parts of Marawi, the Islamic capital of the mainly Catholic Philippines, on May 23. Since then, 822 militants, 162 government forces and 47 civilians have been killed, Col Brawner said.

The insurgents have withstood a relentless US-backed bombing campaign and intense ground battles with troops that have left large parts of Marawi resembling devastated cities in war-torn Syria and Iraq.

  • >1,000 Number of people killed in the conflict in Marawi.

    40 Number of militants who remain in the conflict area.

Col Brawner said 40 militants remained in the conflict area, including leaders Isnilon Hapilon, who is on the US' list of most-wanted terrorists with a US$5 million (S$6.8 million) bounty, and Omarkhayam Maute, whose group had pledged allegiance to ISIS.

There were also 100 civilians in the zone, including hostages and families of the militants, he added.

President Rodrigo Duterte said last Friday that the battle was "almost over". But he warned against celebrating the eventual liberation of Marawi, citing the deaths and devastation. "When we leave Marawi, we go quietly. We do not want to show any kind of celebration or happiness."

AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on October 16, 2017, with the headline 'Battle for Marawi to end soon: Philippine army'. Print Edition | Subscribe