Civilian casualties mounting in Philippine city as ISIS fighting rages on
MARAWI CITY – The number of civilian casualties killed in fierce fighting between security forces and ISIS fighters continue to climb up as more bodies were found Sunday on a village in Marawi City in the southern Philippine province of Lanao del Sur.
At least corpses had been discovered under a bridge in Matampay village. They were believed executed by jihadists after soldiers found a cardboard with the word “munafiq” among the pile of dead bodies.
In Islam, munafiq means “hypocrite,” described in the Quran as outward Muslims who were secretly unsympathetic to the cause of Muslims and actively sought to undermine the Muslim community. The hypocrisy itself is called nifaq.
More than two dozen decomposing bodies of civilians had been found elsewhere in Marawi after ISIS fighters killed them since the start of the siege of May 23. Photos posted on Facebook also showed a child alongside a man and a woman as among the dead.
Sporadic clashes continued in the Islamic City, now a virtual ghost town, after tens of thousands of people fled their homes and sought safe refuge in nearby cities of Iligan and Cagayan de Oro where Christian residents offered free foods and bottled water along the roads to terrified refugees.
Governor Mujiv Hataman, of the Muslim autonomous region, has already mobilized huge groups of social workers to feed and assist those who fled Marawi. The Department of Social Welfare and Development also sent 10,000 food packs for refugees in Iligan City.
The military now said over 50 militants, including foreign fighters, had been killed since the start of the violence, but at least 13 soldiers and two policemen also perished in street battles with more than four dozens injured. It was unclear how the military counted the ISIS casualties with troops failing to recover bodies of slain militants.
There were also reports that many of the jihadists managed to escape from the military assault, although some of the hardened fighters and snipers were left behind to hold back advancing army soldiers. A military tank was also destroyed in the battle and ISIS militants in black robes even posed on top of the armored vehicle.
Many houses were also destroyed by aerial bombings carried out by military planes on suspected hiding places of ISIS fighters. But it was not immediately known whether the air strikes had killed or injured civilians, although security officials said most of the assaults was so-called “surgical” to minimize “collateral damage” or civilian casualties.
While the military is battling the militants, ISIS propaganda also continue in social media with supporters and agitators using false identities urging Muslims to join in the fight and defend Marawi from the “infidels,” but there were also anger among those affected by clashes and blamed the Maute group for their situation now. However, little can be heard from imam or preachers, although many ulama or scholars condemned the attack.
ISIS has already threatened ulama and their families for condemning the militants and for participating in a recent anti-terrorism summit organized by Hataman in Cotabato City. Prompted by the threats, Hataman said they would hold more such forums in the region to combat violence and extremism.
“To those who have Ulama relatives, warn your parents, brothers, and children not to attend the said summit because if something happens to them along the way or in the end, don’t tell us you were not warned,” a statement released by the Dawlah Islamiya or Islamic State said.
Hataman has said Islamic scholars can “contribute largely to the advocacy against terrorism by educating people about the true teachings of Islam, most especially on the principles of justice, compassion, peace, and harmony.” (Moh Saaduddin and Rhoderick Beñez)
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