Government troops have found eight bodies of civilians who were allegedly executed by militants in Marawi city in southern Philippines, bringing the death toll in the six-day clashes between army and militants to 95, a military spokesman said on Sunday.
Brig. Gen. Restituto Padilla said the eight bodies, including women and a child, were found on Saturday night and Sunday morning in Marawi city, which has been under siege by Maute militants since Tuesday, Xinhua reported.
“The bodies (found) consist of four males, three females and a child,” Padilla said, adding that the discovery of the eight bodies “validates” reports that militants have indeed killed civilians.
“We are still validating other reports of atrocities by militants,” Padilla said. To date, he said, 19 civilians have been confirmed to have been executed by militants.
Padilla said so far, 61 militants have been killed in the firefight and that 11 soldiers and four policemen have also been killed.
Padilla said in a statement that the troops will continue “precision” air strikes and artillery fire at specific targets in the city where the Maute militants are hiding.
Padilla said the ongoing military air strikes and military actions focus on freeing a still undetermined number of civilians trapped in the city’s interiors.
“Precision airstrikes and artillery fire will likewise continue at specific targets to hasten the clearing,” Padilla said.
The Philippine media reported on Sunday that heavy fighting, explosions and airstrikes continued as troops sealed the city of Maute militants.
Hundreds of Marawi city residents have fled as the military operations to flush out the militants intensified.
“Our forces are working overtime to hasten the restoration of the rule of law and Marawi’s return to normalcy,” Padilla said.
President Rodrigo Duterte, who declared martial law on the island of Mindanao in the southern Philippines on Tuesday night, vowed to crack down on local militants who have alleged links with ISIS and seek to carve out a caliphate out of Mindanao.
“Until the police and armed forces say the Philippines is safe, this martial law will continue,” he told soldiers in Iligan City on Saturday.
The violence that broke out on Tuesday afternoon on the southern island left 95 people dead, the military said. The military has earlier said that some of the dead militants are foreigners from neighbouring countries.
Mindanao is home to a number of Muslim insurgent groups seeking more autonomy. The insurgents have been fighting the government for decades.