Philippines' Duterte apologises for urban war

Downtown Marawi City October 2004. Minda News

Philippines President Rodrigo Duterte has accepted he might require USA help to oust Islamic State militant group (ISIS) rebel fighters from the city of Marawi, a spokesperson said Tuesday.

A spokesman of the government said that aircraft bombed rebel positions and ground troops launched a renewed push against the militants holed up in Marawi city on Tuesday.

Almost 350 people have been killed, according to an official count, as fighting in Marawi city entered its fifth week. "We are doing our best to expedite the liberation of Marawi at the soonest time possible".

MalacaƱang on Tuesday said global terror group Islamic State (ISIS) will not succeed in making Marawi a stronghold in Southeast Asia.

The Palace said the recovery of 11 kilos of shabu on Sunday validated President Rodrigo Duterte's statements that the narcotics trade fueled the ongoing siege in Marawi.

Padilla said the military aimed to prevent the conflict from escalating after Ramadan ends.

The fighting has seen Marawi, considered the Muslim capital of the largely Catholic Philippines, turn from a bustling trading centre into one resembling war-torn cities in Iraq or Syria.

"As devout Muslims, we are forbidden to fight during Ramadan so afterwards, there may be new groups coming in", said Faisal Amir, who has stayed on in the city despite the battle.

Planes flew overhead dropping bombs while on the ground, automatic gunfire was sustained with occasional blasts from artillery. Armoured vehicles fired volleys of shells while the militants responded with gunfire and rocket-propelled grenades.

"It's hard to fight those who are willing to die".

Despite the president's push for an "independent foreign policy", military officials said it has allowed the entry of armed U.S. personnel near war-torn Marawi City to provide "technical support" on surveillance and information gathering against the terrorists.

An army corporal near the front line told Reuters soldiers were tagging houses and buildings that had been cleared.

The shabu was recovered by troopers from the 49th Infantry Battalion as they were conducting clearing operations against the terrorist Maute Group, the military said Monday, June 19.

"The Philippines has existing mutual agreements with the USA especially on defense", he said.

Hundreds of civilians are still believed to be trapped in the militant-controlled areas, according to local authorities and aid workers.

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