Philippines Independence Day, Blast Rock Besieged City

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Today blasts rocked in the southern Philippines in Marawi City  as the national flag was raised to mark independence day. This blast happened almost three weeks after hundreds of Islamist militants overran the town and hunkered down with civilians as human shields.
Soldiers, Rescue officers  and firemen sang the national anthem and  three OV 10  aircraft darted through the cloudy sky listened to speeches and taking it in turns to drop bombs on areas where fighters are holed up.

Vice Provincial Governor Mamintal Adiong Jr. told the gathering,” To all our Muslim brothers there, we want to stop their meaningless fight because we are all Muslims, we want to tell them to stop all these.” Normally, Flag ceremonies are performed twice a week, but since May 23, this was the first in the  Muslim town and was the first day of the siege when the militants killed and abducted Christians.

Almost the entire population  fled along the Philippines southernmost island of Mindanao, but there are still around thousands of civilians trapped or being held hostage, beyond the checkpoints that fence it off. 58 security forces killed in the battle for Marawi. The death toll for civilians was 20 and more than 100 had been killed.

The Marawi seizure of fighters, include the  Middle East has alarmed Southeast Asian nations which fear the ultra radical group which is  on a backfoot in Syria and Iraq and is trying to set up a stronghold on Mindanao. On Sunday, Rodrigo Duterte, the Philippines President said, he hadn’t  expected the Marawi battle to be as serious as it has turned out. He added, ” The Baghdadi, the leader of the ISIS himself  has specifically ordered terroristic activities in the Philippines.”

Rodrigo Duterte  didn’t say how he knew about  Islamic State leader Abu Bakr al B whose movement is referred to as ISIS and had given instructions for the attack on Marawi.
Plan to take other cities foiled. In an independence day speech in Manila Allan Peter Cayetano, Foreign affairs minister said that the militants had planned to take over at least two or three cities in Mindanao.

Their troops made a preemptive raid on Marawi to capture Isnilon Hapilon who is the leader of the Abu Sayyaf group and Islamic State’s emir of Southeast Asia. He said,” We want to coordinate with Malaysia and Indonesia so that they would not also suffer in the hands of extremists.” “But at the start of his term, the president knew that, as the allies become more successful in Syria and Iraq, the Islamic State will be looking for a land base, and Malaysia, Indonesia,  the Philippines will be a potential target to them.”

On the condition of anonymity, US officials said the support included aerial surveillance and targeting, eavesdropping electronic, communications assistance and training. On Friday,  US P-3 Orion surveillance plane was seen over the town. The Pentagon has no permanent involvement  in the Philippines but for years it has kept 50 to 100 special forces troops in the south of the country on rotational exercises. On Sunday, Duterte said,” He had not sought support from Washington to end the siege and had not been aware that U.S. special forces were assisting. the government didn’t  need to be involved in decisions on U.S. participation because bilateral visiting forces agreement and events happening real time are left to the armed forces and defence department.

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