Marawi, Philippines. Fighting continues between Philippine troops and ISIS terrorists, with the death toll climbing daily in fierce battles that center in the southern city of Marawi.
The crisis in Marawi, home to some 200,000 people, has grown increasingly dire as the militants show unexpected strength, fending off a military that has unleashed attack helicopters, armored vehicles and scores of soldiers. Much of the city is a no-go zone, but as the military advances and more civilians escape, the scope of the battle is becoming clear.
Long lines with thousands of civilians have streamed out of Marawi and more than 2,000 were still trapped inside the city. Many sent desperate text messages begging to be rescued and reporting that their homes had been destroyed, said Zia Alonto Adiong, an official in Lanao del Sur, one of the country’s poorest provinces.
The Philippine forces found corpses in the streets of a besieged southern city on Sunday, including at least eight civilians who appeared to have been executed, as soldiers battled a weakened but still forceful group of terrorists linked to the ISIS group. The current death toll has now gone over 100 persons.
Rampant violence prompted President Rodrigo Duterte on Tuesday to declare 60 days of martial law in the southern Philippines, where a Muslim separatist rebellion has raged for decades. But the recent bloodshed in Marawi has raised fears that extremism is growing as smaller terrorist groups unify and align themselves with the Islamic State group.
Eight other men were found gunned down and thrown into a shallow ravine early Sunday in Marawi’s Emi village, said police officer Jethrol Megadang. A paper sign attached to one of the men indicated that the victims had “betrayed their faith,” he said, identifying the men as civilians.
More than 2,000 were still trapped inside the city. Many sent desperate text messages begging to be rescued and reporting that their homes had been destroyed, said Zia Alonto Adiong, an official in Lanao del Sur, one of the country’s poorest provinces.
It all started when the government launched a raid to capture Isnilon Hapilon, who is on Washington’s list of most-wanted terrorists. But the operation went awry and militants rampaged through the city, torching buildings and battling government forces in the streets. The FBI in Washington has offered a $5 million reward for information leading to Hapilon’s capture.
The groups are inspired by the Islamic State group. Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana told reporters that Hapilon has received funds from the Islamic State group.