Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte sent in troops backed by tanks and attack helicopters to retake Islamist militant positions in Marawi City early Thursday morning.
ISIS-linked militants affiliated to Abu Sayyaf and the Maute took over the city in the southern Philippines on Tuesday following a botched raid on a militant hideout. CBS reports Duterte saying he may extend martial law nationwide. The president says a local police chief was beheaded at a checkpoint set up by the militants.
“We’re confronting maybe 30 to 40 remaining from the local terrorist group,” said Jo-Ar Herrera, spokesman for the military’s First Infantry Regiment, as cited by Reuters.
“The military is conducting precise, surgical operations to flush them out… The situation is very fluid and movements are dynamic because we wanted to out-step and outmaneuver them.“
— RT (@RT_com) May 25, 2017
Ground troops engaged Maute fighters – affiliated to IS (Islamic State, formerly ISIS/ISIL) – while attack helicopters bombarded their positions from above with heavy machine gun fire and rockets.
Some 18 rebels and six soldiers were killed in the operation according to an army spokesperson cited by Reuters.
RT reached out to Marawi resident and eyewitness Chico Dimaro Usman who has captured the carnage in detail, uploading images and video to Facebook.
Maute fighters have torched buildings throughout the city including a jail, a cathedral and a local school, Dansalan College.
The coordinated air and ground operations began at roughly 9am Usman said.
The air raids continued throughout the morning into mid-afternoon but Usman captured both raids on camera.
RT has corroborated that the videos were taken in the region through comparisons of local topography in the videos with imagery from Google Earth.
Local weather reports confirm roughly 90 percent cloud cover in the area around Marawi City which matches the footage taken by Usman.
RT obtained private statements from Usman confirming that he is in the area. Out of concern for his and his family’s safety, RT is not disclosing his exact location at this time.
So far, a total of 46 people including 15 security forces and 31 Maute fighters have been killed in Marawi City reports Reuters.
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