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Philippines launches offensive in hope of recapturing Marawi by weekend festival

20 June 2017

"The Philippine military has already pre-empted the Maute group from establishing a wilayat or a province in Marawi", said Presidential Spokesman Ernesto Abella in a media briefing.

The almost month-long battle for full control of Marawi City has left 258 terrorists and 65 government troops dead, and scores injured, according to the military.

Fleeing residents said they saw scores of bodies in the debris of homes destroyed in bombing and crossfire.

But he added: "We are not setting any deadlines knowing the complexity of the battle".

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"I will help you, I will rehabilitate Marawi, it will be a attractive city again", he said at the school in Iligan City, about 40 km (25 miles) from the battle zone.

Members of the Philippine National Police (PNP) Special Action Force are onboard a military truck for reinforcements, as government forces continue their assault against insurgents from the Maute group, who have taken over large parts of Marawi City, Philippines June 19, 2017. "I don't know that the IS are directing operations there [Southeast Asia], but they are certainly trying to get fighters into that region", Ernst was quoted as saying.

"As devout Muslims, we are forbidden to fight during Ramadan so afterwards, there may be new groups coming in", said Faisal Amir, who has stayed on in the city despite the battle. Armoured vehicles fired volleys of shells while the rebel fighters responded with gunfire and rocket-propelled grenades.

Fighting later died down as heavy rain fell but had resumed by evening.

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Despite the president's push for an "independent foreign policy", military officials said it has allowed the entry of armed United States personnel near war-torn Marawi City to provide "technical support" on surveillance and information gathering against the terrorists.

An army corporal near the front line told Reuters news agency that soldiers were tagging houses and buildings that had been cleared.

The death toll from Marawi siege has risen to 539, including 26 civilians, 238 Jihadist extremists, and 255 government troops, as of 6 p.m. on June 19, Monday, according to a government report.

"The series of piracy attacks accompanied by kidnappings that occurred frequently in the Sulu [Sea] waters have had a huge security impact on surrounding coastal countries. and have pushed us to conduct a coordinated patrol among three countries", said Nurmantyo when the joint patrol was launched at the Indonesian island of Tarakan off Borneo island. Hundreds of people are unaccounted for, with many believed to be hiding in the basements of the city.

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