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Extremists stockpiled weapons ahead of Philippines siege

Tanks arrive at a military camp in Iligan city to reinforce Government troops who are battling Muslim militants who laid siege in Marawi city for over a week now Wednesday, May 31, 2017 in southern Philippines. Fighting continues for the second week now between Government troops and Muslim militants with casualties on both side and civilians.(AP Photo/Bullit Marquez)Bangkok: Islamic extremists pre-planned the siege of a southern Philippine city, deploying weapons, ammunition, Islamic State flags and bomb-making materials, according to the Philippine military and other sources.
Nanjing Night Net

Authorities had earlier portrayed the siege of Marawi, 830 kilometres south of Manila, as a bloody response to a botched military operation to capture wanted terrorist Isnilon Hapilon???.

“Indeed there was planning that was involved even prior to our entry to arrest Hapilon???when we got information he was holed up in the area,” said Philippine military spokesman Brigadier-General Restituto Padilla.

The siege has intensified fears that a dozen extremist groups allied with Islamic State will gain a foothold in the southern Philippines.

Islamic State has claimed responsibility for the violence.

Fighters from the pro-Islamic State Maute group are clinging to the heart of the city, threatening to kill hostages, despite air and ground attacks by security forces for an eighth day.

Kidnapped priest Chito Suganob has appeared in a video in which he repeated the militants’ demand for troops to withdraw from the city.

But the military dismissed the video as propaganda.

“The propaganda of the enemy???is indicative if their fighting for survival. They are trapped???they are in areas where they will never come out alive unless they surrender,” Brigadier-General Padilla told reporters.

Grave fears are held for Father Suganob and a dozen of his parishioners who were abducted from a church as they said prayers.

The military has warned there would be “collateral damage” as they deployed SF-260 close-air-support planes to back attack helicopters.

The death toll has soared above 100 with dozens wounded.

More than 20 of the dead are believed to be civilians.

Military spokesmen said fighting alongside the militants are prisoners they freed from the city’s two jails last week and an unknown number of foreign fighters.

Their weapons include arms seized when the militants rampaged through the city of 200,000, which is now largely deserted, with decaying bodies seen in streets.

Philippine president Rodrigo Duterte, who has declared martial law across Mindanao, ruled out negotiating with the militants, calling them terrorists.

“They are trying to correct the way of living for everybody,” he said.

“They do it by killing people, invoking the name of God and that is a very terrible ideology.”

There are unconfirmed reports that Hapilon, who was wounded in January, remains holed up in Marawi.

He is on Washington’s most wanted list with a US$5 million ($6.7 million) bounty on his head.

– with agences

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