Philippine military forces have again bombarded the southern city of Marawi, where they have engaged in a battle with suspected Daesh-affiliated militants for five days.
“We have identified where they are consolidating so we are doing surgical air strikes to destroy the local terrorist group,” said Philippine military spokesman Lieutenant Colonel Jo-ar Herrera on Saturday, AFP reported.
The development came as truckloads of soldiers were also seen driving into Marawi. The city is one of the largest Muslim-populated cities in the country with a population of nearly 200,000 residents, most of whom have been evacuated due to the ongoing fighting.
This is while the military has vowed no let-up in its battle against the militants, which coincides with the beginning of the Muslim fasting month of Ramadan.
Military spokesman Herrera said the security operations to rid Marawi of the gunmen would continue despite the start of Ramadan.
“It is painful for the Maranao (the name for local Muslims) that it is Ramadan but our action now is to protect Marawi,” Herrera added. “These are the impacts of the local terrorist group’s actions.”
The violence erupted on Tuesday when dozens of gunmen went on a rampage throughout Marawi in response to an operation by security forces to arrest Isnilon Hapilon, a veteran Filipino militant regarded as the local leader of the Daesh-affiliated militants.
The militants reportedly planted black Daesh flags, took a priest and up to 14 other people hostage at a Catholic church and set fire to buildings.
So far, 13 soldiers, two policemen and 31 militants have been killed during the fighting, according to authorities.
Two civilians were also confirmed killed inside a hospital that the militants had occupied on Tuesday. The military has also said that it is looking into reports that nine people were murdered at a checkpoint the militants had set up.
President Rodrigo Duterte on Tuesday declared martial law on Mindanao, the country’s second-largest island, to stop the spread of Takfiri militancy.
Duterte has further pledged to remove the threat of Daesh-linked militants, whom he accuses of belonging to the local Maute terrorist group and being backed by criminals in the area.
Duterte, however, stated on Friday that he was prepared to talk with the group’s leaders.