Bomb blasts rocked Marawi City in the southern Philippines on Monday (June 12) as the national flag was raised to mark independence day, nearly three weeks after hundreds of Islamist militants overran the town and hunkered down with civilians as human shields.
The city’s population of just over 200,000 has mostly managed to escape the fighting.
Blasts from airstrikes thudded in the distance during the events.
“It’s ironic for Filipinos to celebrate Independence Day when the government continues to pound civilian communities with bombs and bullets, when people are enslaved in fear and misery”. Policemen roamed a community that troops had wrested back from the militants and festooned abandoned houses with small flags.
Villager Janisah Ampao, who fled her home with her husband and two children when the fighting broke out last month, felt a sense of relief and pride when she saw the flag being raised at the provincial capital building.
But soldiers have killed more than 80 of the sharpshooters, “so it means they are already weakened”, he said. “Our city is in ruins, all the people have gone and the stores are closed”. In flag-raising ceremonies in Marawi City, soldiers and civilians wept to see the southern city being destroyed.
“You know the President has been working 24/7, meeting the troops, meeting the commanders, and then late last night, visiting the wounded”, said foreign affairs secretary Alan Peter Cayetano.
Filipino forces, meanwhile, captured on Friday the mother of two top militant leaders leading the siege. At least 21 civilians have been killed, including a boy who was hit by suspected militant gunfire inside a Marawi mosque where his family had taken refuge, Padilla said.
The uprising in the Philippines has the USA concerned.
A U.S. Navy aircraft provided surveillance for the local troops as the battle raged, confirming the involvement of the U.S. military in helping to end the urban insurrection at the request of the Philippine government, Philippine military officials said. The tough-talking Duterte took an adversarial stance toward former U.S. President Barack Obama, who had criticized his bloody anti-drug crackdown, but his relations with Trump have been markedly better.
Calida defended President Rodrigo Duterte’s decision to declare martial law in the entire southern Mindanao region to deal with the Marawi crisis.
Duterte said on Sunday he had not expected the battle to be as serious as it became, adding it had now emerged “that Baghdadi himself, the leader of “IS”, has specifically ordered terroristic activities here in the Philippines“. The group has pledged allegiance to Islamic State (IS) and wears its signature garb, but it’s unclear whether IS has reciprocated.
Associated Press writer Jim Gomez in Manila, Philippines, contributed to this report.
Governments across the region have been on high alert since Islamic State-linked militants, mostly from Southeast Asian countries, overran a city in the southern Philippines about three weeks ago.
Using these defensive positions, the terrorists are using sniper fires, mortar fire, anti-tank rounds, and improvised explosive devices to kill anyone – government security forces, relief and rescue workers, and civilians – who get in the way of their fanatical desire to dismember Marawi from the Philippines and establish it as a “Wilayat” or an ISIS province in this part of Asia, the military official said.