Sunday, February 18, 2018 10:59:02 PM

Philippine troops pound Islamists as death toll passes 300

Photo Gallery1 Photo By AFP - Sat Jun 17, 9:57 am

marawiMARAWI: Philippine troops pounded Islamist militants holding parts of southern Marawi city with air strikes and artillery Saturday as more soldiers were deployed and the death toll rose to more than 300 after nearly a month of fighting.

Fires erupted and dark plumes of smoke rose from enclaves still occupied by the militants as the air force staged bombing runs to support ground troops struggling to dislodge the fighters from entrenched positions, AFP journalists at the scene said.

MG520 attack helicopters and FA50 fighter jets were used in the raids, while sustained bursts of automatic gunfire could be heard in the distance, indicating the intensity of the fighting.

Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte, appearing in public for the first time in nearly a week, said the presence of foreign fighters from the Islamic State (IS) group among the militants in Marawi has made the fighting more difficult.

“You have a conglomeration there of ISIS fighters from Syria, Indonesia, Malaysia, Sri Lankan and Arabs,” he told soldiers during a visit to a military camp in Butuan city, northeast of Marawi, in the southern region of Mindanao.

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