nsucurrent.com May 23, 2018

Philippine airstrike kills 11 soldiers in 'friendly fire'

02 June 2017, 02:12 | Colleen Roy

Philippine airstrike kills 11 soldiers in 'friendly fire'

Aid reaches residents stranded inside Marawi – DSWD

Philippine airstrikes aimed at Islamist militants who are holding hostages as human shields in a southern city killed 11 soldiers, authorities said Thursday, as they conceded hundreds of gunmen may have escaped a blockade.

In a press briefing at Malacañang on Thursday, Defense Secretary and martial-law administrator Delfin N. Lorenzana said that based on a report that he received on May 31, 10 soldiers were caught in a blast when the military conducted "surgical" airstrikes in Marawi, where the fighting between government troops and the terrorists is now on its 11th day.

Brig. Gen. Restituto Padilla told a news conference the soldiers were killed and wounded by a rocket bomb fired by an SF-260 attack plane around noon on Wednesday.

"Sometimes in the fog of war, a lot of things could happen", he added.

The military says up to 50 militants including Abu Sayyaf leader Isnilon Hapilon are still fighting government forces inside barangays where at least 2,000 residents are trapped, said Herrera.

He said the siege "will actually become more of a template and motivation for other terrorist organizations who believe they can actually take on government forces".

The Daesh-linked Maute group has proven to be a fierce enemy, clinging on to the heart of Marawi City through days of air strikes the military has said are "surgical" and on known rebel targets.

More than 20 of the dead are believed to be civilians.

Tens of thousands of people in the mostly Muslim city have managed to escape.

"There were two planes flying and the first plane dropped their ordnance accurately pero 'yung pangalawa sumablay, tumama doon sa tropa natin", Lorenzana said.

It remains unclear whether the jet's bombs landed on the wrong position or the ground troops had entered the location without updating those in the air, but Lorenzana said signs pointed to "pilot error".

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. Since then the government has been launching airstrikes to dislodge the rebels.

"We appeal... on humanitarian reasons and because this is what our religion Islam tells us", Jaafar said in an interview on ABS-CBN News.

The air strike hit Marawi on the southern island of Mindanao.

It was sparked by the attempted capture of a top militant leader by the army.

"Once the dust settles, the people of Marawi might not have homes anymore to go back to", he added.

Hapilon is an Islamic preacher and former commander of the Abu Sayyaf militant group who pledged allegiance to the Islamic State group in 2014. He said the Maute group was being given too much credit, and that the occupation of Marawi was the work of Islamic State, and planned a long time ago. "I will use you as soldiers, with the same pay, privileges, and I will build houses for you", he said.

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