A Philippine politician claims that residents fleeing Marawi City have seen at least 100 bodies “scattered” in the streets following weeks of intense fighting between militants linked to the Islamic State (IS, formerly ISIS/ISIL) and government forces.
Recounting the testimony of people who recently escaped the besieged city, Zia Alonto Adiong, the Governor of the province Lanao del Sur, said scores of bodies are in an area which saw heavy gunfire.
“Dead bodies, at least 100, scattered around the encounter area,” Adiong told reporters, according to Reuters. The army previously said that 290 people have been killed, including 206 militants, 58 soldiers and 26 civilians.
Adiong, who is helping rescue and relief efforts, had earlier claimed that up to 1,000 dead bodies were seen by the fleeing residents. He subsequently revised that number.
The politician also said that starvation has led residents to eat cardboard boxes. “It’s heartbreaking. It’s almost unbelievable to think that people are living this way,” Adiong told AFP.
Senior Philippine military figures say they are closing in on rebel held positions. “We intend to finish the fight as soon as possible. Our tactical commanders are doing their best,” military spokesman Lieutenant Colonel Jo-Ar Herrera said, adding that 200 jihadists remain in the occupied city with many of them had taken up sniper positions.
As the fighting intensifies, the Philippine armed forces have announced the arrest of the brother of a jihadist leader.
Mohammad Noaim Maute, whose brothers Omarkhayam and Abdullah are the commanders of the Maute Group, was apprehended at a checkpoint near the city of Cagayan de Oro, north of Marawi.
Brigadier-General Gilbert Gapay, a military spokesman, said Mohammad is a suspected bomb-maker for the group which has pledged allegiance to IS.
Most of the other seven Maute brothers, including Omarkhayam and Abdullah, are believed to be in the embattled city. Their parents were taken into custody last week. Maute was not armed when arrested and police said he readily admitted his identity under questioning.
Meanwhile, an Australian journalist was lucky to escape with his life after being shot in the neck. Adam Harvey, who works for Australia’s national public ABC, said: “Luckily it missed everything important and it just got lodged behind my jaw.”
Harvey, who has since returned to work, tweeted an alarming image of the x-ray showing the bullet in his neck.
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