The death toll in a protracted battle between Islamic State-allied militants and government troops in the southern Philippine city of Marawi has topped 500, the military said yesterday.
Ninety of the dead were soldiers and police officers, while 39 were civilians killed by the militants in Marawi City, 800 kilometres south of Manila, said Brigadier General Restituto Padilla.
At least 381 of the dead were militants killed in the fighting which began on May 23 after government forces attempted to arrest a local leader of the Islamic State terrorist group, he added.
Defence Secretary Delfin Lorenzana denied a local media report that up to 2,000 civilians had been killed in the conflict, and urged the public to avoid sharing such “unverified reports” that could “cause undue alarm, panic and confusion.”
“Such information is not only detrimental to our ongoing operations. It also hurts our economy and our international image as a nation,” he said in a statement.
Lorenzana also allayed public fears of a prolonged period of martial law, which some legislators have proposed be extended for another five years in the southern region of Mindanao.
President Rodrigo Duterte declared a 60-day martial law in Mindanao to help boost the fight against the militants in Marawi City.
The decree is set to expire in 10 days.
Lorenzana said martial law was “an extraordinary power of the president as commander-in-chief that must be resorted to only when warranted by our national security circumstances.”
“Our constitution has prescribed limitations precisely to prevent it being abused as it has implications to the country’s peace and order, economy, trade, tourism, and our people’s way of life,” he added.
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