Philippine airstrike kills 11 soldiers in 'friendly fire'

Government forces are using helicopters to attack pockets of Marawi city where officials say 89 Islamist militants have been killed but remaining gunmen are putting up strong resistance and holding hostages

Government forces are using helicopters to attack pockets of Marawi city where officials say 89 Islamist militants have been killed but remaining gunmen are putting up strong resistance and holding hostages

"It would not be any different from what President [Ferdinand] Marcos did", declared Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte shortly after declaring martial law across the restive island of Mindanao.

Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana on Thursday confirmed that eight foreign fighters were among the Islamist militants killed by security forces in Marawi City.

The pro-ISIS Maute group has proven to be a fierce enemy, clinging on to the heart of Marawi City through days of air strikes the military has said are "surgical" and on known rebel targets.

Precision-guided bombs were used earlier in airstrikes in Marawi's urban areas, but the military ran out of the high-tech munitions and used conventional ones in Wednesday's bombing run, he said.

Another major complicating factor was the safety of about 2,000 residents who the local government said remained trapped in the militant-controlled areas, with troops, police and aid workers trying to rescue them.

Images have been circulated widely online of smiling fighters dressed in the black attire typical of Islamic State, posing with trophies that include stolen government weapons and armoured vehicles hit by rocket-propelled grenades.A video posted on the website of Islamic State's Amaq news agency shows mostly young fighters, and the bodies of dead soldiers inside a vehicle.

"It's sad but sometimes it happens in the fog of war". In the other, it landed on Manila's own soldiers, killing eleven and injuring seven others.

He estimated that about 50 to 100 of the militants remained holed up in the city.

The gunmen are also holding hostages, some of whom have been forced to speak on propaganda videos for the militants calling for troops to withdraw.

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.

"We lost everything, our home and my business", Rasul told the AP as she waited to receive a pack of food and water in an overcrowded emergency shelter in Balo-i town near Marawi.

At least 5,000 members of the Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF) - a separatist Muslim militant organization that has signed a peace treaty with Manila - are positioned around Marawi ready to assist government forces, CNN Philippines reported Wednesday.

"We will be unrelenting in the pursuit of our mission".

"We have many fears", said Abp. Orlando Quevedo, "but, at present, we simply do not have solid and sufficient facts to absolutely reject the declaration of martial law as morally reprehensible".

The conflict began after security forces attempted to capture top militant leader Isnilon Hapilon, who is considered as the Islamic State's leader in the Philippines.

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Hapilon is an Islamic preacher and former commander of the Abu Sayyaf militant group who pledged allegiance to the Islamic State group in 2014.

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