Philippine airstrike kills 11 soldiers in 'friendly fire'

Foreign fighters including Chechens and Arabs are among Muslim militants who were killed in weeklong fighting in a southern Philippine city that involved about 500 gunmen aligned with the Islamic State group, the Philippine defense chief said Thursday.

A Philippine military Marchetti S-211 jet bombed a tactical position in the southern city of Marawi, overrun with Islamic terrorists belonging to Abu Sayyaf and the Maute group - indigenous jihadist movements that have pledged allegiance to Islamic State caliph Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi - on Wednesday.

Military spokesman Restituto Padilla said an investigation would be held to establish how the air force plane killed ground troops. "We're merely working closely with civil organization whose objective is to save more lives", he said.

"We don't have any record of them coming through the proper channel, through the airports", Lorenzana said.

In an earlier text message to reporters, he said of the "friendly fire" incident: "Sometimes that happens".

Lorenzana also warned that many militants may have escaped, despite checkpoints throughout the city and surrounding it.

At least 25 soldiers and five policemen also have been killed in clashes.

Numerous 500 who joined in the fighting were trying to slip out of Marawi, blending in with fleeing civilians, he said.




"There were two from Saudi Arabia, two from Malaysia, two from Indonesia, one from Yemen and one from Chechnya", he said.

President Duterte gave a speech on Thursday, and although he didn't mention the soldier's deaths in the airstrike, he restated his belief that the rebel fighters are "purely" Islamic State group.

Duterte has vowed to drive out the radicals from the city by all means necessary, and to halt the spread of radical Islam in Asia's largest Catholic-majority nation.

Fox News reported that colleagues of Suganob have confirmed his identity from the video, though it's not clear under what conditions the priest was forced to make his statements.

Duterte placed Mindanao under martial law and suspended the privilege of the writ of habeas corpus in the entire island for 60 days due to the armed conflict in Marawi City, Lanao del Sur which resulted to numerous casualties. The militants, mostly from the Maute group, took over much of Marawi, setting fire to a cathedral and a hospital and taking hostages. "I will use you as soldiers, with the same pay, privileges, and I will build houses for you", he said.

He said the corridor will be implemented by the government and the main separatist group, the Moro Islamic Liberation Front, which has signed a peace agreement in exchange for Muslim autonomy in Mindanao, the southern third of the Philippines.

"It will be the call of the ground commander if they need the strikes pero medyo limitahan muna natin 'yung strike to the aircraft that can deliver accurately", said Lorenzana, the martial law administrator in Mindanao.

Most of the civilians have left Marawi, while about 2,000 remain trapped.

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