MANILA – (UPDATED) Foreign terrorists were among those killed in the ongoing siege in Marawi City, an official said.
Padilla said at least 31 from the terrorist group have been killed so far, and some of those slain were Malaysians, Singaporeans, and Indonesians, Armed Forces spokesperson Restituto Padilla said.
PHOTO: Government troops are seen during an assault on insurgents from the so-called Maute group, who have taken over large parts of Marawi City, Thursday. Romeo Ranoco, Reuters
The government deployed attack helicopters and special forces to drive gunmen out of the besieged southern city.
“Up to this moment operations are ongoing. There are still firefights between our forces and those of the terrorists and the objective of armed forces is to clear the city,” Padilla added.
Padilla said efforts to rescue stranded residents remain, as he assured locals that military was only conducting “surgical air strikes” to avoid civilian deaths and damage to property.
MINDANAO AS ‘CALIPHATE’
Indonesians and Malaysians were among foreign Jihadists fighting the Philippine army in Mindanao island, the solicitor-general claimed, in a rare admission that outsiders were collaborating with domestic Islamist groups.
“Before it was just a local terrorist group. But now they have subscribed to the ideology of ISIS (Islamic State),” Solicitor General Jose Calida told a news conference.
“They want to make Mindanao part of the caliphate,” he claimed.
Calida said the Maute group and Islamic State wanted to create an “ISIS province” in Mindanao and the government was not the only target of their aggression.
“People they consider as infidels, whether Christians or Muslims, are also targets of opportunity,” he said.
“What it worrisome is that the ISIS has radicalized a number of Filipino Muslim youth.”
On Tuesday, President Rodrigo Duterte placed all of Mindanao under martial law after government troops clashed with terrorist group Maute.
Troops were pursuing bandits from Maute group while on a mission to arrest Isnilon Hapilon, the suspected leader of the Islamic State in Southeast Asia, when the terror group took hostages.
US offers $5 million for any information that will lead to Hapilon’s arrest.