Philippine friendly fire airstrikes kill 11 troops

Philippine military airstrikes aimed at Islamist militants who are battling soldiers in a southern city instead killed 10 troops and injured seven others, the defence secretary said on Thursday.

The bombing accident happened on Wednesday when one of two planes bombing rebel positions missed its target in the heart of Marawi City, where ground troops have been battling pro-Islamic State militants holed-up in buildings for nine days.

Lorenzana said airstrikes may be curtailed because of the friendly fire incident, but military spokesman Padilla insisted the soldiers' deaths would not weaken the resolve of the armed forces. Troops engaged rebel snipers, as helicopters circled, identifying targets.The military said rebels were using women and children as human shields. Snipers and buildings that obstructed cannon fire were making it hard for troops to end the siege, said Lorenzana, who had wanted to end the crisis by Friday.

Lorenzana also said that at least eight foreign terrorists fighting along with the Maute IS group were among the dead militants.

Officials said troops have cleared about 90 percent of Marawi, a scenic lakeshore city with a population of more than 200,000, many of whom have fled to crowded evacuation camps in outlying towns.

A tragic friendly fire incident in the southern Philippines has cast doubts over military assurances that a victory in the ongoing fight against Muslim militants in Marawi is close at hand.

President Rodrigo Duterte declared martial law across the entire southern region of Mindanao in response to the crisis, which he described as the start of a major campaign by IS to establish a foothold in the Philippines.

"Sometimes mistake happens. And we hope those mistakes do not happen and nangyari nga".

"Maybe the coordination was not properly done so we hit our own people", Lorenzana said.

About 2,000 civilians are also trapped in the militant-held areas, according to the local government. "We don't know yet what exactly happened", he added. "We're nearly there. There is only one pocket of resistance", he said. More than 3,000 soldiers, marines and air force personnel are involved in the fighting, backed by more than 30 assault aircraft, military officials said.

"I think it's horrific for the civilian people who are in there and we really hope that both sides can agree that the civilians should be given the opportunity to come out", the deputy head of the ICRC's Philippine delegation, Martin Thalmann, told AFP in Marawi on Wednesday.

  • Zachary Reyes