“Death toll in Marawi conflict rises to 537 in Philippines”
16 Jul 2017, 01:17 ( 6 days ago)
The Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) said on Saturday that the death toll in the ongoing conflict in the southern city of Marawi has reached 537, including 93 soldiers and policemen.
AFP spokesman Restituto Padilla said that as of 7 p.m. local time Friday, the military has also recorded deaths of at least 399 Islamic militants and 45 civilians. The death toll is expected to rise as the fighting to retake rebel-controlled areas within the city continues, he said.
Fighting broke out in the Philippines' only Islamic city on May 23 when militants allied with Islamic State (IS) attacked a hospital, a school and government buildings in a failed attempt to control the city.
The military said the attack was part of the militants' big plan to establish an IS caliphate in the southern Philippines, home to Filipino Muslims and several groups of Muslim insurgents that have plagued the country for decades.
The militants laid the siege while President Rodrigo Duterte and all his security officials were on an official visit to Russia. Duterte and his defense chief Delfin Lorenzana have admitted that the government has underestimated the capability of the armed insurgents that spearheaded the attack.
The military said foreign IS fighters based in Southeast Asian countries like Indonesia and Malaysia, and the Middle East like Syria have helped in planning and executing the attack.
Marawi City's more than 200,000 residents have fled the fierce fighting and military airstrikes that have damaged or destroyed several buildings and houses. Most of the evacuees, including women and children, are now housed in different evacuation centers in Iligan City and nearby areas.
The military is still conducting clearing operations to retake the city from about 100 militants who are still hiding inside some buildings and mosques in some parts of the city.
Duterte has placed the entire Mindanao Island under 60-day martial rule in the wake of the deadly attack. The AFP is currently studying whether to extend or lift the martial law, Padilla said, adding the final assessment report and recommendation will be submitted to Duterte this coming week before the martial law declaration expires on July 22.