Philippines says 500 militants involved in siege

Philippines says 500 militants involved in siege

The military is considering limiting or suspending the air strikes in Marawi City following the death of 10 soldiers in a botched bombing run, Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana announced on Thursday.

Brigadier General Restituto Padilla told the media here that the soldiers were killed and wounded in airstrikes aimed at Islamist militants on Wednesday, Xinhua news agency reported.

Military operations suffered a setback on Wednesday when an aircraft bombed friendly forces, killing 11 soldiers and wounding seven.

"It's sad but sometimes that happens, sometimes in the tug of war".

Padilla said the day before that troops have cleared nearly 90 percent of Marawi, where the gunmen linked to the Islamic State extremist group have been fending off government troops since a botched raid to capture a veteran rebel leader triggered a militant rampage.

Islamic extremists pre-planned the siege of a southern Philippine city, deploying weapons, ammunition, Islamic State flags and bomb-making materials, according to the Philippine military and other sources. Shortly after President Rodrigo Duterte took power past year, he questioned the country's decision to buy more technically advanced FA-50 supersonic fighter jets from South Korea.

He last week declared martial law on Mindanao island, where Marawi is located, in an attempt to quell movements he said he had long warned would mushroom into what is now an IS invasion.

Asked if they are members of the global terror group ISIS, Lorenzana said, "I believe so".

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The Philippine military previously said that it was conducting "precision airstrikes" on militant positions in an effort to dislodge them.

The army insists the drawn-out fight is not a true sign of the militants' strength, and that the military has held back to spare civilians' lives.

Regional Assemblyman Zia Alonto Adiong reiterated calls by local officials to stop the air strikes to allow humanitarian work to proceed.

The minister raised the possibility of limiting airstrikes if government troops converge within cities controlled by militants. He says authorities are verifying reports that some have left in small groups for towns around Marawi.

The Philippines Justice Department has issued warrants for more than 100 members of the Maute group and the Abu Sayyaf terrorist organization, both of which are believed to be involved in the fighting in Marawi. "But in a certain way, your Armed Forces of the Philippines is doing its best to facilitate the release of hostages and trapped civilians", said Herrera.

"We don't know yet what exactly happened", he said. "I will use you as soldiers, with the same pay, privileges, and I will build houses for you", he said.

The conflict began after security forces attempted to capture top militant leader Isnilon Hapilon, who is considered as the Islamic State's leader in the Philippines.

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