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Australia to send surveillance planes to help Philippines fight militants

Australia to send surveillance planes to help Philippines fight militants

Military spokesman Brig. Gen. Restituto Padilla said engineering equipment and personnel are being deployed to Marawi to hasten rebuilding efforts, according to the state-run Philippine News Agency.

The number of people killed in the ongoing firefight between government troops and Daesh-linked fighters in Marawi City in the southern island of Mindanao has risen to 310, a military official said on Friday.

Ano, citing intelligence shared by foreign counterparts, says Mahmud is suspected of channeling more than 30 million pesos ($600,000) from the Islamic State group to acquire firearms, food and other supplies for the attack.

The latest attack took place as government forces continue to wind down operations against Maute fighters in Marawi City.

"I hope this will be resolved peacefully and I hope there will be negotiations for the sake of the people they are holding hostage", he said on the local GMA television network. He said that three boatloads of gunmen who tried to join the militants were blasted by navy gunboats three days ago in Lake Lanao, which borders Marawi.

He said he had seen at least five civilians dressed in black who appeared to have been forced to stand in the street as human shields.




"We can just bomb them away or use napalm bomb to burn everything, but then, we will not be any different from them if we do that", he said.

The militants involved in the Marawi fighting are mostly from the Maute and Abu Sayyaf organisations, which have united with the BIFF under the IS umbrella, according to the government.

Powerful clans and warlords, along with insurgencies, have effectively weakened law enforcement in large areas in the country's south, making it easier for militants to take over an area and hold it, said Sidney Jones, director of the Institute for Policy Analysis of Conflict in Jakarta, Indonesia.

"The Government of the Philippines has accepted an Australian offer of two Australian Defence Force AP-3C Orion aircraft to provide surveillance support to the Armed Forces of the Philippines", said an emailed statement from Australian Defence Minister Marise Payne. "It's much broader problem that needs a strategic solution". The attack has sparked fears that the Islamic State group, while losing territory in Syria and Iraq, may be gaining a foothold in Southeast Asia by supporting local militants with money, training and weapons.

Duterte on Tuesday apologised to residents of Marawi for imposing martial law but he vowed to rebuild the city and make it attractive again.


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