Militants urged to surrender as Philippines govt reclaims most of Marawi

Thousands of families are forced into evacuation centres in the southern Philippines, while authorities set up stringent check points to prevent Islamic militants from spreading beyond the city of Marawi, where they are currently battling troops.
Philippine marines and commandos were clearing rebel positions house by house and street by street in Marawi yesterday. The military said its men have taken back most of the city. A villager getting help after she escaped an area controlled by milita
Philippine marines and commandos were clearing rebel positions house by house and street by street in Marawi yesterday. The military said its men have taken back most of the city. PHOTO: REUTERS
Philippine marines and commandos were clearing rebel positions house by house and street by street in Marawi yesterday. The military said its men have taken back most of the city. A villager getting help after she escaped an area controlled by milita
A villager getting help after she escaped an area controlled by militants in Marawi City yesterday. The Maute group still controls pockets of the city. PHOTOS: EUROPEAN PRESSPHOTO AGENCY
Philippine marines and commandos were clearing rebel positions house by house and street by street in Marawi yesterday. The military said its men have taken back most of the city. A villager getting help after she escaped an area controlled by milita
Government troops on patrol in Marawi yesterday found graffiti supporting ISIS.PHOTOS: EUROPEAN PRESSPHOTO AGENCY

Philippine troops continue clearing out rebel positions as hostages plead with Manila to stop military assault

The Philippine military urged Muslim militants still holed up in the southern city of Marawi to surrender as security forces, backed by armoured vehicles, artillery and attack helicopters, continued their push to dislodge the insurgents and free trapped civilians.

"We call on the remaining terrorists to surrender while there is an opportunity... Not surrendering will mean their sure death," the military's spokesman, Briga- dier-General Restituto Padilla, said yesterday.

The military said on Monday that its men have taken back most of Marawi City.

The call to surrender came as the insurgents' hostages pleaded with the government to stop bombarding rebel positions.

The siege of Marawi City is in its second week after about 100 militants from the Maute group attacked the lakeside city on May 23. The attack followed a raid by a special forces team at an apartment where a top terrorist leader, Isnilon Hapilon, was believed to be hiding.

The Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS) has designated Hapilon as the "emir" of South-east Asia.

Despite a sustained assault by the military over the past eight days, the militants still control pockets of the city. Marines and commandos spent yesterday clearing rebel positions house by house, and street by street.

 

President Rodrigo Duterte has declared martial law in Marawi and across the Mindanao island group.

The death toll has exceeded 100, with 19 civilians and at least 65 rebels killed. The government lost 17 soldiers and three policemen.

The Philippine military has said foreign fighters, including Malay- sians, Indonesians and Singaporeans, are involved in the fighting.

Malaysian Deputy Prime Minister Ahmad Zahid Hamidi said yesterday that a third Malaysian has been killed in Marawi, the Bernama news agency reported.

In Singapore, the Ministry of Home Affairs said a Singaporean man implicated in terrorism-related activities in the southern Philippines is believed to be still alive. A spokesman for the ministry said Muhamad Ali Abdul Rahiman, alias Muawiya, has not returned to Singapore since he went to the southern Philippines in the 1990s.

Meanwhile, a Catholic priest who was taken hostage last week has appealed to Mr Duterte to consider the plight of the captives and stop the military operation.

Father Teresito "Chito" Soganub, the city's vicar-general, said there were about 240 other captives.

"We are asking your help to please give what your enemies are asking for," he said in a video clip shown on a Telegram channel used by ISIS.

The video showed the priest, wearing a black shirt and trousers, standing in front of a razed building. As he was speaking, gunfire could be heard in the background.

"They simply are not asking for anything, just to withdraw your forces... and to stop the air strikes, your air attacks, and stop the cannon," he pleaded.

Military chief Eduardo Ano said on Monday that the militants had intended to raze Marawi, as part of a plan to launch violent attacks during the holy month of Ramadan to earn recognition as a regional branch of ISIS.

"They wanted to show the world that there is an ISIS branch here which can inflict the kind of violence that has been seen in Syria and Iraq," he said, insisting that the raid on Hapilon's suspected hideout disrupted that plan.

•Additional reporting by Tan Tam Mei

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Thousands flee to evacuation centres. str.sg/4L33

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on May 31, 2017, with the headline 'Militants urged to surrender as govt reclaims most of Marawi'. Print Edition | Subscribe