Published: Tue, June 06, 2017
Global News | By Stacy Ballard

Philippines: at least 4 foreign gunmen killed in Marawi clash

As of yesterday morning, AFP chief Gen. Eduardo Año said the military, working house-by-house, had cleared 70 percent of the city and the remaining militants were isolated. May 29, a total of 65 Maute Group terrorists were killed by military personnel engaged in the now eighth-day clearing operations.

He said the military can not stop the offensive at this point "because if we do not employ combat power as we need it and (in the end) we would prolong the clearing process and endanger more lives".

Philippines President Rodrigo Duterte imposed martial law in Mindanao last Tuesday - the first time martial law has been imposed since 1986 - in response to the violence.

There were still bodies of civilians in Marawi and residents urged the military to halt air strikes, said Zia Alonto Adiong, a politician involved in evacuation efforts.

"They are trapped, they are contained, they are in areas that they will never come up alive unless they surrender", Padilla said.

Cohen says that what's more concerning are the reports he has been hearing suggesting these militants are using children to bait government forces into risky areas, and forcing hostages to "take an oath" to the group.

The militants are also holding an unknown number of civilians hostage, according to Padilla and other authorities.

Among the captives still held by the rebels is Fr. Chito Suganob, parish priest of St. Mary's Cathedral.

Speaking to CNN Philippines, they described how 11 of them fled a building they were housed in and swam across a river to government troops on the other side.

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"We can not verify it yet".

"Despite numerous attempts to reach out to the Maute (militants), they refused to have a stand down in order to evacuate civilians", Galvez said.

Military offensives are now directed at remaining 10 percent of the city heavily guarded by the extremists, according to Armed Forces spokesman Brig.

"That is true. That is one of the objects of recovery of the PNP".

"We covered the mouths of our children".

The assault on the city of Marawi may have been inspired by the failed attempt to capture Hapilon, but experts say it was also meant to send a message.

"T$3 hey were land-mined [and] were ambushed. Inside, there is a supply of bullets", he said, adding the ammunition was among the stolen items the rebels were using to resist the forces being poured into the area.

"The crew [inside the SAF tank] were wounded".

More than 80 militants had been killed since fighting began, while 17 soldiers and three police officers had died, Armed Forces of the Philippines spokesman Joar Herrara told CNN.

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The crisis in Marawi, which is home to about 200,000 people, has raised fears that extremism in the southern Philippines is increasing as smaller militant groups unify and align themselves with the Islamic State.

The militants' violence began after a failed army and police raid to capture Isnilon Hapilon, a local Islamist leader.

Hapilon, a senior member of the Abu Sayyaf kidnap-for-ransom gang, is on the USA government's list of most-wanted terrorists.

Having acquired support from other local and foreign militants, the groups had been planning to launch a major assault on Marawi on the Muslim holy month of Ramadan, but attacked earlier, after Hapilon's near arrest.

Fighting raged on between government soldiers and ISIS-aligned militants in Marawi, Philippines, on Tuesday.

The main Muslim rebel groups have signed accords with the government aimed at forging lasting peace, giving up their separatist ambitions in return for autonomy.

Hapilon is an Islamic preacher and former commander of the Abu Sayyaf militant group who pledged allegiance to the Islamic State group in 2014.

Duterte said Saturday he was prepared to enforce martial law for as long as was necessary to end the terrorist threat.

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