Philippines says 500 militants involved in siege

Philippine President Rodrigo DuterteMore

An airstrike by the Philippine military killed 11 of the country's own soldiers and injured seven others as the government struggled to take back the southern city of Marawi from insurgents loyal to the Islamic State group, officials said Thursday.

Defence Minister Delfin Lorenzana said two SF-260 plans had dropped bombs on Islamic State targets in the city centre, and that it was "very sad" that they had hit some of their own troops in the process.

According to global media, Delfin Lorenzana told reporters that seven other soldiers were injured on Wednesday when two air force SF-260 close air support planes dropped bombs on a target in the heart of city.

Padilla said the military has ordered an investigation of the friendly fire, which reflects the difficulty faced by government forces to contain the insurrection despite their overwhelming number and firepower. And there were stories - stories of things that mothers and fathers hope never happen to their families.

Lorenzana said that foreign fighters from as far away as Saudi Arabia and Yemen had been killed in the battle for Marawi City.

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.

The government yesterday said another rebel group, the Moro Islamic Liberation Front had agreed to help get civilians, dead or alive, out of Marawi and had accepted Mr Duterte's unconventional offer for communists, separatists and the military to unite against radical Islam.

Lorenzana added that the failed airstrike was the first accident of its kind in the history of the Philippine air force and that the military would investigate what went wrong to prevent future incidents.

President Rodrigo Duterte declared martial law in the Mindanao region, the southern third of the Philippines, and poured in troops backed by airstrikes to push the attackers out of the city. Lorenzana said it was likely a "pilot error".

"We don't know yet what exactly happened", he said.

The militants have murdered 19 civilians, the military has said, while insisting none have died in any air assaults or the intense street-to-street battles.

The unrest has boosted fears that the Islamic State group's violent ideology is gaining a foothold in the country's restive southern islands, where Muslim separatist rebellions have raged for almost half a century.

"We have just delivered 21 armored vehicles to Marawi".

On May 23, heavily-armed militants attacked the city of about 200,000 people when the military was searching for a leader of Abu Sayyaf hidden in the city.

"When you're desperate, you will do everything to survive", said Zia Alonto Adiong, a regional lawmaker who welcomed dozens of people, including children, who fled to safety after more than a week trapped inside Marawi.

The air strikes are targeting locations where the military believes the so-called emir of Islamic State and point man in the Philippines, Isnilon Hapilon, could be hiding.

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