Philippines Becomes Hotbed For ISIS Activity As Foreign Jihadis Join The Fight

The Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) on Friday pulled out SF-260 trainer jets from Marawi City following the botched government air strike Wednesday that killed 10 soldiers and wounded seven more.

Philippine troops accidentally killed 11 of their comrades as they battled Islamist militants, the latest in a series of incidents illustrating how the military is struggling to contain the threat of rebel groups. "Until such time that every member of this armed group, this rebellious group that still wants to make a stand inside Marawi exists, we can not totally say we have cleared Marawi".

'Yesterday we had a tragedy that involved our troops.

With the announcement of the so-called "friendly fire" incident, the combined death toll has reached 139 as of Wednesday-89 of which were militants, 19 civilians, and 31 from the security forces.

While civilians are endangered by the air strikes, the military believes that the hits are essential to a quick victory, with at least 2,000 people trapped by the fighting and fast running out of food and water.

Lorenzana said that the military might halt air strikes as the rebels are not strong enough to hold out for long.

Since then, Philippine military and police have been engaged in pitched, street-to-street fighting with ISIS gunmen, whose ranks have reportedly included fighters from the Mideast and eastern Europe, as Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte declared martial law in the Mindanao region.

The Maute and foreign fighters were said to be inspired by the radical ISIS movement, whose black flag they carried.

He also said militants who were Saudi, Malaysian, Indonesian, Yemeni and Chechen were among eight foreigners killed fighting with the Maute rebels.

Brig-Gen Fortes became commander of the 103rd Brigade in January and oversaw a series of operations to disrupt the Maute, a group that swore allegiance to the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria and later laid siege to Marawi City.

"I have cousins on the other side", Duterte said in an outspoken end-of-year interview.

Eyewitnesses who fled the scene have told reporters that ISIS terrorists, many of them as young as thirteen, are forcing civilians to recite Islamic prayers or be killed.

"Continued efforts also are being exerted in our collaboration and coordination with other concerned agencies to ascertain the status of victims whose families continue to ask for assistance on their whereabouts, as well as those of the hostages that are known to us", he added.

The city has been facing the crisis since last week after militants went on a deadly riot following an unsuccessful military raid to arrest Isnilon Hapilon - a Filipino militant on the US's list of most-wanted terror suspects with a US$5m (£3m) bounty on his head.

  • Leroy Wright