MANILA – The death toll in the Marawi City siege has reached 175 after 11 more soldiers died Wednesday, the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) said Friday.
AFP Spokesperson Brigadier General Restituto Padilla said the civilian and enemy death toll still stood at 19 and 120, respectively, while the number of those killed from the government side rose to 36.
Among the latest deaths, 10 were killed after a fighter plane mistakenly hit troops on the ground with a conventional bomb, Padilla said. An ensuing gun battle then killed another soldier.
Padilla clarified that the earlier report of 11 deaths from the “friendly fire” was wrong, as one of these men apparently died in the gun battle that erupted after the bungled air strike.
He said the AFP Board of Inquiry has been tasked to investigate the incident, even as the military continued to extend support to the families of the slain soldiers and help personnel involved in the bungled air strike deal with the unfortunate incident through debriefing and counseling.
“You know, the worst scenario that can be likened to the worst nightmare for every pilot who tries to assist his fellow uniformed services on the ground is to have a case or an incident like this,” he said.
“So we need to assist and help our personnel overcome this. At the same time, our Army is also helping the bereaved families go through this very trying time,” he added.
Padilla said troops continued clearing operations in Marawi City, as terrorists including members of the Maute and the Abu Sayyaf groups remained holed up in concrete structures, shielding them from military bomb runs.
“Compounding the situation on the ground is the use of these forces, these armed elements of children and civilians as human shields,” Padilla said.
“Apart from that, they have also been turning to the madrasahs as staging areas and the mosque as sniper nests, thereby hoping to limit the movement of our forces and their capability to neutralize them,” he said.
President Rodrigo Duterte placed Mindanao under martial law after government troops clashed with terrorists, including foreign jihadists.
The clashes erupted on May 23 as state forces were trying to arrest top Abu Sayyaf leader Isnilon Hapilon, considered the Islamic State’s point man in Southeast Asia.