Philippines says 8 foreign fighters killed in southern siege

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Manila: An air strike during Philippine military operations to drive Islamist rebels out of a southern city has killed ten government troops, the defence minister said on Thursday, in a major blow to efforts to defeat fighters linked to the ISIS.

The government said 21 soldiers were already killed in days of action while 72 others were wounded while 89 members of Abu Sayyaf and Maute were also killed.

"Sometimes mistake happens. And we hope those mistakes do not happen and nangyari nga".

Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana said 500 extremists fought in the city and that they had a "big plan" to occupy it. But the website MaxDefense Philippines said it had a poor serviceability record and funding issues and lacked numerous capabilities of typical attack jets, like radar and internal guns.

Clashes between government forces and the Maute group in Marawi prompted President Rodrigo Duterte to declare martial law throughout Mindanao on May 23.

The capture or killing of Hapilon would be a much-needed public relations boost for the military as the Maute fighters capitalise on the publicity from their defiant stand.

Mr Duterte declared martial law in the southern Philippines shortly after hostilities began in Marawi early last week.

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Adding to concerns about the rising threat of IS, Lorenzana said militants from Saudi Arabia, Chechnya, Yemen, Malaysia and Indonesia were among the dead.

"One of our SF-260 aircraft was conducting an airstrike (when) the last ordnance round it (fired) went wayward for an unknown reason and accidentally hit our ground forces", Padilla said.

"We want to live another day, we want to live another month", Fr Suganob said, standing in front of debris and partially burned buildings. Troops engaged rebel snipers, as helicopters circled, identifying targets.The military said rebels were using women and children as human shields.

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 mishap could reinforce calls to reduce aerial bombardments that have destroyed parts of Marawi, an important commercial and educational hub on the southern island of Mindanao where most Filipino Muslims live.

While Maute and Abu Sayyaf are indigenous jihadist groups, Duterte announced Thursday that evidence suggests that the Marawi siege is a "purely ISIS" attack led by foreign fighters. About 2,000 people are believed to still be trapped in houses near the fighting, while about 1,000 others have been rescued by police and soldiers from villages that have been cleared of armed extremists, the officials said. "I will not talk to anybody", he said on Wednesday.

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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