Philippine airstrike kills 11 soldiers in 'friendly fire'

At least 11 soldiers have been killed after Philippines Air Force plane bombed in a southern city targeting at Muslim militants who are holding hostages as human shields, the authorities said on Thursday.

But in a televised press conference also yesterday, Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) spokesperson Brigadier-General Restituto F. Padilla, Jr. said 11 soldiers, not 10, were killed by the botched airstrike "based on the last report".

"The coordination was not properly done so we hit our own people", he added, calling the soldiers' deaths a result of "the fog of war". "It hit our troops ... there must be some mistake there", said Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana.

MARAWI, Philippines- Inside this lakeside city dotted with hundreds of mosques, a powerful militant designated by the Islamic State group as its leader in the Philippines has managed to unify a disparate group of gunmen under a single command.

Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte answered by declaring martial law in the region and launching a major offensive on the city, saying he was concerned that the southern Mindanao area could become a hotbed for Islamist extremism.

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The discovery of foreign jihadis among the ranks of the militants in Marawi supports assertions that there is more to this fight than meets the eye and that ISIS may be trying to establish a foothold in Southeast Asia.

However Padilla warned of more intense battles ahead, with the military believing three of the militants' main leaders were likely still in the city.

According to CNN Philippines, on Wednesday two jets were conducting strikes against members of the Maute group, which has pledged allegiance to ISIS, when one struck members of the 55th Infantry Battalion. At least 25 soldiers and 19 civilians have also died.

The minister raised the possibility of limiting airstrikes if government troops converge within cities controlled by militants. Fighters loyal to him surprised government forces with their firepower, fending off air strikes and house-to-house searches.

While Maute and Abu Sayyaf are indigenous jihadist groups, Duterte announced Thursday that evidence suggests that the Marawi siege is a "purely ISIS" attack led by foreign fighters.

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"Once the dust settles, the people of Marawi might not have homes anymore to go back to", he added.

Padilla said 960 civilians have been rescued and an estimated 1,000 residents remain trapped.

"We still have more than one day so I'm sure the troops will do the best they can to accomplish the deadline", he said.

"Mr. President, if you want me to kneel before you just to knock your heart in favor of our families who are crying out there in different places, for our relatives. we will do that", he said.

The attack began last week as the Philippine police attempted to raid the hideout of Isnilon Hapilon, the head of Abu Sayyaf.

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