DAMASCUS, SYRIA (11:30 A.M.) – On Thursday, heavy clashes erupted in the Philippines city of Marawi, home to a large Sunni population, after the Philippine Army began its anticipated counter-offensive led by thousands of government troops, including its 103rd Brigade and special forces.
Amid the clashes, 13 Islamic State insurgents were killed and 7 Philippine soldiers killed-in-action as government forces recaptured the Amai Pakpak Hospital and Dansalan College around noon, rescuing 120 hostages in the process.
In addition, a police officer was killed in the Marawi battle against two ISIS franchise groups, known as ‘Maute’ and ‘Abu Sayyaf’. A total of 31 government troops have been injured over the past 72 hours, official sources confirm.
Since Tuesday, ISIS has captured large portions of Marawi city, burned down churches and abducted priests from the local municipality. However, Colonel Edgard Arevalo insisted the situation was under control despite a martial law being declared across the governorate.
President of the Philippines Rodrigo Duterte, known to be a strongman and controversial figure spared little mercy on the jihadist insurgents: “Anyone now holding a gun, confronting the government with violence, my orders are spare no one, let us solve the problems of Mindanao once and for all,” he said on Wednesday.
Nevertheless, hundreds of ISIS fighters and sleeper cells are still active inside Marawi and must be dealt with by the Philippine Army if they are to quell the insurgency.