Manila, Philippines. What was thought to be a simple terrorist incident, has blown into a full scale conflict with 31 terrorists dead and 11 filipino troops the latest body count in the quickly developing war.
Top Philippine officials says foreign fighters from across the middle east are among the militants linked to the Islamic State group who have laid siege to the southern city of Marawi. Manila defense officials told reporters Friday that Syrians and Malaysians are fighting in Marawi.
ISIS terrorists have controlled the streets of Marawi since Tuesday night, torching buildings, taking a priest and his worshippers hostage and sealing off much of the city. At least 44 people have died in the fighting, including 31 militants and 11 soldiers.
There are a number of foreign militants who have had a presence in the southern Philippines for decades, including some of Asia’s most-wanted terrorists. The Bojinka plot was a large-scale, three-phase attack planned by Islamists Ramzi Yousef and Khalid Sheikh Mohammed for January 1995.
They planned at the time to assassinate Pope John Paul II, blow up 11 airliners in flight from Asia to the United States with the goal of killing approximately 4,000 passengers and shut down air travel around the world, and crash a plane into the headquarters of the CIA in Virginia, all to be run from the Philippines.
Meanwhile, the police chief in the southern Philippines says he’s safe after Philippines President Rodrigo Duterte announced earlier that the chief had been beheaded. Duterte had said Wednesday that militants who have laid siege to the city of Marawi had decapitated the police chief of Malabang.
Malabang Police Chief Romeo Enriquez reporters on Friday that he is fine. He said there may have been confusion because a former Malabang police chief was killed in the fighting — but he was not beheaded, just shot between the eyes,with the back of his skull blown out, according to Enriquez.
Army generals say 31 Islamic State group-linked extremists have been killed in two days of fighting in a southern city that has been under siege since one of Asia’s most-wanted militants evaded capture and dozens of rebels came to his aid.
Army officials said 13 fighters were killed Thursday by troops backed by rocket-firing helicopters in Marawi city, an important hub for the Islamic faith that now resembles a war zone. They said six soldiers perished in Thursday’s fighting.
The city of about 200,000 people has been under attack by Muslim militants and people were packing into vehicles to flee the violence Thursday as army trucks rolled into the city center. The Philippines is Asia’s largest Roman Catholic nation, but its southern region has a large Muslim minority.