Militants Allowing Only Muslims to Leave, Military Says

Displaced residents of Marawi city queue up to receive relief and food supplies at an evacuation center in Balo-i township, Lanao del Norte province.

Manila Philippines, 11 Ramadan 1438/8June 2017 (MINA) — Militants leading the siege of Marawi are preventing Christians from leaving the city and are allowing only Muslims to flee to safer ground, the military said on Monday, as it explored all means to meet the objective of ending the conflict in three days.

The statement of the Armed Forces came days after it failed to meet its self-imposed deadline to end the crisis in Marawi by Friday last week or by the weekend, Philstar reported.

Marine Col. Edgard Arevalo, head of the Armed Forces of the Philippines’ Public Affairs Office, told radio DZMM that Islamist fighters belonging to the Maute Group and the Abu Sayyaf are letting only Muslim civilians leave the conflict zone and are preventing Christians from seeking rescue as he emphasized that all innocent civilians, regardless of religious affiliation, should be spared from the horrors of the firefight.

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Arevalo said that the safety of civilians is the military’s paramount concern as they implemented measures aimed at ending the almost two-week conflict in Marawi, an Islamic city of around 200,000 residents many of whom have fled to neighboring towns and cities as the fighting consumes parts of their hometown.

Arevalo said that the military is doing everything they can to accomplish President Rodrigo Duterte’s order on Sunday to end the siege in the next three days.

 

Duterte won’t to talk

The intense fighting in Marawi City began on May 23 as Philippine security forces tried to capture Abu Sayyaf subleader Isnilon Hapilon and other senior figures of the Maute Group. Hapilon has been appointed emir or point person of the so-called Islamic State of Iraq and Syria while the Maute has claimed that they have been inspired by the Middle-East-based group.

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Heavy clashes have since ensued, forcing most of the city’s population to flee. The government has already sent millions in humanitarian aid to try to deal with what could be considered the most serious problem the tough-talking Duterte has faced after winning last year’s election on a supposedly strong anti-crime and tough-on-security platform.

Arevalo said that even if the military is doing everything to end the conflict in the coming days they will still ensure that no civilians will be harmed a day after Duterte, the commander in chief, said that he would not negotiate with militants even if they killed their hostages.

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“I was asked if I could negotiate. I’m telling you now, you can kill all those you’re holding now, but I won’t talk to you,” Duterte said in Lapu-Lapu City in Cebu. “My order really is to shoot you and to shoot you dead.”

The new deadline for security forces to end the Marawi conflict comes as the military struggles to flush out the remaining Maute and Abu Sayyaf fighters still holed up in the city. A previous military deadline to retake the city lapsed as deaths on both sides continued to mount.

Arevalo said that the military was open to declaring a temporary lull in the hostilities, a day after two soldiers were killed despite what the Armed Forces called a “humanitarian ceasefire” to rescue stranded residents. (T/RS5/RS1)

Mi’raj Islamic News Agency (MINA)