Strikes aimed at militants kill 11 Philippine soldiers

MARAWI CITY, Philippines More than 160 civilians walked out of the besieged Philippines city of Marawi just after dawn on Saturday, deceiving Islamist fighters they encountered by hiding the identity of the many Christians among them.

The Philippine SunStar reports that the former mayor of Marawi City, Sultan Fahad Salic, is denying allegations that he provided support to the ISIS-allied Maute terror group when it attacked the city, insisting that some of his own family members are now trapped in the city.

Salimbangon said, however, that the Philippine military is "doing its best" to help people who fled the city of Marawi where fighting continued more than a week after terrorist gunmen tried to occupy the city.

"If it didn't rain we had no water and we didn't eat", said Sedrome's younger sister and fellow teacher, Jane Rose Sedrome, 25.

Padilla added that the extremists group's video featuring Father Suganob appears to be authentic but warned that is being used for propaganda.

"Because they have occupied vantage positions, they have positions that could again inflict maximum impact to the troops", Army Spokesperson Lt. Col. Jo-Ar Herrera said.

Mindanao - roiled for decades by Islamic separatists, communist rebels, and warlords - was fertile ground for Islamic State's ideology to take root. Mindanao has a significant Muslim population, though the Philippines is a predominantly Catholic country.

It is hard for governments to prevent militants from getting to Mindanao from countries like Malaysia and Indonesia through waters that have often been lawless and plagued by pirates. The key will be how well it manages relations with the region's jihadi old guard, CTC said.

Steven Rood, a professor at Australian National University who has studied armed conflicts in the Philippines for years, said it is not surprising that the government has failed to control all of Mindanao, since militant Islamist and left-wing rebels have been active on the impoverished island for decades.

He swore allegiance to Islamic State in 2014, and quickly got other groups to join him.

To the Maute group, she said they did not have the heart and were ruthless in killing her son.

The official also confirmed that based on intelligence reports, Isnilon Hapilon receives huge amount of funds from the Middle East.

Yesterday afternoon, President Duterte went to Ipil town in Zamboanga Sibugay to boost the morale of the 102nd Infantry Brigade, saying the government will win over terrorism. It also wants to ban betting, karaoke and so-called "relationship dating".

Both Duterte and Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana have told reporters that the terrorists in Marawi are not indigenous to the Philippines but part of a foreign ISIS invasion. Among the jihadis are around 40 foreign fighters, Reuters reports.

"And then other than that, there may have been other sympathizers from other areas who may have made their way into the area earlier [in the fighting] and maybe already in their ranks", he added.

One of them reportedly mentioned a door opening in the Philippines.

Maute gunmen armed with machine guns and rocket-propelled grenades have controlled central areas of the city despite air and ground assaults by government forces.

  • Leroy Wright