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Civilians, especially Christians, targeted in battle between Philippine army and ISIS

The battle claimed the lives of 1,100 people.

Members of Armed Forces of the Philippines patrol in Marawi.
Members of Armed Forces of the Philippines patrol in Marawi.
Image: Xinhua News Agency/PA Images

CIVILIANS, PARTICULARLY CHRISTIANS, were targeted in a battle for a Philippine city.

The battle on the island of Mindanao pitted the Philippine military against militants allied to the Islamic State group between May and October this year.

The battle saw hundreds killed and Christians targeted according to a new report from Amnesty International.

The ‘Battle of Marawi’: Death and destruction in the Philippines is the first detailed human rights analysis of the conflict, based on a research trip to Lanao del Sur, Mindanao in September.

It documents how IS-allied militants targeted Christian civilians for the worst of the abuses, including at least 25 extrajudicial killings, mass hostage-taking, and extensive looting of civilian property.

Philippines: Philippines Battles to Retake City From Islamist Rebels Source: SIPA USA/PA Images

Philippine armed forces, meanwhile, detained and ill-treated fleeing civilians, and also engaged in looting. Their extensive bombing of militant-held areas of Marawi city wiped out entire neighbourhoods and killed civilians, highlighting the need for an investigation into its compliance with international humanitarian law.

“The IS-linked militants’ bloody, months-long siege of Marawi took a heavy toll on civilians, with Christians in particular singled out for brutal attacks, including extrajudicial killings,” said Colm O’Gorman, Executive Director of Amnesty International Ireland.

Amnesty International interviewed 48 survivors and witnesses, and many described how IS-linked militants regularly targeted civilians and carried out extrajudicial killings in Marawi city. Multiple witnesses described ten separate incidents where militants killed a total of at least 25 civilians by shooting them or slitting their throats. Most were targeted because they were Christians, and some were killed as they attempted to flee to safety. It is a war crime to murder civilians.

Philippines: Philippines Battles to Retake City From Islamist Rebels Source: SIPA USA/PA Images

Last week, the Philippine government warned that armed stragglers hiding among the ruins of the city.

“The main battle area, where most of the very heavy fighting occurred in the last few weeks prior to the liberation and the cessation of combat operation still harbours a number of stragglers,” military spokesman Major-General Restituto Padilla said.

“These so-called stragglers continue to pose a huge threat to our people in Marawi as has been proven by the events of the past few days,” Padilla told reporters in Manila.

An ensuing US-backed military campaign claimed the lives of more than 1,100 people including around 900 militants, displaced 400,000 residents and reduced large parts of the city to rubble.

Padilla said the authorities were trying to confirm information provided by the captured suspect that more than 30 militants continue to hide out in building basements and tunnels.

More than 6,000 Marawi residents have been allowed to return home to areas that were previously cleared by authorities and did not suffer major damage, the authorities said.

With reporting from AFP.

Read: US special forces move in to help Philippines rid city of Islamic State

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