Philippines troops pounded Islamist militants holding parts of southern Marawi city with air strikes and artillery Saturday as more soldiers were deployed and the death toll rose to more than 300 after nearly a month of fighting.
The overall death toll rose to 329 with 310, 225 militants, 59 soldiers and 26 civilians, killed in the conflict, according to government figures.
Fires erupted and dark plumes of smoke rose from enclaves still occupied by the militants as the air force staged bombing runs to support ground troops struggling to dislodge the fighters from entrenched positions.
MG520 attack helicopters and FA50 fighter jets were used in the raids, while sustained bursts of automatic gunfire could be heard in the distance, indicating the intensity of the fighting.
14-hour gun battle against ISIS-affiliates leaves 13 soldiers killed in Philippines pic.twitter.com/trTknbVETD https://t.co/4QwcWWiKwN — RT (@RT_com) June 10, 2017
Hundreds of militants, supported by foreign fighters, rampaged through Marawi, the largely Christian Philippines' most important Muslim city, on May 23 waving black flags of the IS.
Duterte declared martial law in Mindanao to counter the attack, which he said was part of a plan by IS to establish a base in the country.
Such a base could be crucial for IS' ambitions to establish a caliphate in Southeast Asia, analysts say.
The military has said at least eight foreign fighters from Chechnya, Yemen, Malaysia and Indonesia were among the militants killed in the Marawi fighting.
‘Lies & propaganda’: Philippines army targets 63 Facebook accounts used by ISIS-linked group and its sympathizers https://t.co/0ZqxgocfTb pic.twitter.com/SjYUvRoFuI — RT (@RT_com) June 9, 2017
Ground commanders estimate "more than 100" militants are still holding out in at least four villages in Marawi, military spokesman Brigadier General Restituto Padilla said in Manila.
But he said the figures were based on estimates a few days ago "so this number could have dropped significantly".
Padilla said in an interview with DZMM radio the military would no longer give any self-imposed deadlines on when the militants would be driven out after failing to meet previous ones they had set.
"We are trying our best to expedite (driving them out) without unduly compromising the lives of our soldiers and at the same time the remaining civilians there," he said.