Mark Navales and Jeoffrey Maitem
Police seized dozens of firearms and arrested two retired soldiers and seven others during an anti-terrorist sweep in the southern Philippines over the weekend, as security forces pursued pro-Islamic State (IS) militants, officials said Tuesday.
Jeoffrey Maitem, Froilan Gallardo and Felipe Villamor
Men, women and children are returning to the lakeshore city of Marawi in trickles to find their homes damaged after a five-month battle with Islamic State-backed militants officially declared over on Oct. 23.
The Philippine military has spray-painted “cleared” on buildings the militants had taken over but were eventually dislodged from during the fighting in the southern Philippine city. Still, close to 40 militants are holed up in the ruins of a section of the city, the army said.
By Jeoffrey Maitem and Richel V. Umel
Fresh fighting erupted Thursday between government forces and more than three dozen militant stragglers in the southern Philippine city of Marawi, officials said, 10 days after the Philippines declared an end to a five-month battle there with pro-Islamic State gunmen.
Nontarat Phaicharoen and Mariyam Ahmad
Two-year-old negotiations with southern rebels will proceed despite reports suggesting that the peace process likely has stalled, Thailand’s chief negotiator said Wednesday.
But an insurgent in the troubled Deep South told BenarNews that rebel attacks would go on anyhow, and in spite of talks aimed at implementing a limited ceasefire.
By Jeoffrey Maitem and Mark Navales
Islamic books, hundreds of bullet cartridges and toy guns littered what was left of ground-zero of a five-month battle that killed more than 1,200 people and drew the world’s attention to a regional alliance of Southeast Asian and foreign militants in the southern Philippines.
By Froilan Gallardo and Jeoffrey Maitem
Schoolteacher Baicona Hassan wept openly on Thursday when she saw what remained of her two-story home in a ruined section of Marawi city in the southern Philippines.
Her house had been looted and left in disarray, and its bullet-riddled walls were barely standing in Basak Malotlot, a district that absorbed some of the heaviest fighting after Islamic State-linked gunmen went on a rampage in May. This week, the Philippine government declared the five-month siege by the militants over.
The Philippines ended a five-month long security crisis with a final assault Monday on a building held by pro-Islamic State (IS) fighters in Marawi, killing 42 militants, including five foreigners, government officials said.
The siege of the southern Philippine city launched by IS-linked militants on May 23 left 1,132 enemy combatants, soldiers and civilians dead, flattened buildings and displaced more than 200,000 residents, officials said.
By Jeoffrey Maitem and Froilan Gallardo
Local officials in the war-torn Philippine city of Marawi buried at least 40 unclaimed bodies on Thursday, after American forensics experts completed gathering DNA samples to determine their identities.
No relatives came forward to claim the bodies, leading authorities to believe they were among hundreds of pro-Islamic State (IS) militants killed during a battle with Philippine government forces in the southern city that has lasted more than four months.
Froilan Gallardo and Jeoffrey Maitem
Philippine troops rescued 17 hostages, including a group of university teachers, after soldiers penetrated the final defensive positions of their Islamic State-backed (IS) enemies in the southern city of Marawi, officials said Wednesday.
The group included five teachers of Dansalan College, according to military officials, who said at least 40 others remained in the hands of the militants.
Jeoffrey Maitem and Mark Navales
The Philippine military voiced optimism Monday that it would soon clear the southern city of Marawi of Islamic State-backed militants, as its forces recovered a third bridge vital to the rebels’ defensive positions and rescued four more hostages.
In Marawi, regional military chief Lt. Gen. Carlito Galvez presented to the press ex-hostages Abdul Naser Ergas Mangondaya, Kiram Datu Dakula Ampatua, Abdullah Nixon Rakiin and Lordvin Acopio.
Razlan Rashid and Nani Yusof
Kuala Lumpur and Washington
Echoing comments by the chief Thai negotiator, a MARA Patani spokesman insisted Monday that Barisan Revolusi Nasional rebels were on its negotiating panel in informal peace talks, and these were on-going despite a disagreement last week over a limited ceasefire.
Jeoffrey Maitem, Mark Navales and Richel V. Umel
Weary Philippine troops on Thursday pushed their way closer to enemy-held territory amid the ruins of Marawi, as the military appeared to have seized strategic positions almost four months after Islamic State-linked militants took over this southern city.
Troops allowed BenarNews reporters to join them inside Marawi’s main battle area, giving them permission to observe U.S.-trained Filipino commandos while they moved around the districts of Mapandi and Lilod, two areas controlled by the gunmen from May 23 until recently.
Razlan Rashid and Pimuk Rakkanam
Kuala Lumpur and Bangkok
Thailand and a panel representing rebel groups from the Deep South held technical talks Tuesday in Kuala Lumpur focusing on efforts to bring about a limited ceasefire, but officials from both sides did not say whether they made much progress.
In February, a Thai government delegation and rebel organizations represented through the umbrella panel MARA Pattani agreed to a framework for setting up a ceasefire – officially known as a “safety zone” – in one district in Thailand’s troubled southern border region.
Mark Navales and Jeoffrey Maitem Marawi, Philippines
Philippine troops killed at least five Islamic State-linked militants in a predawn firefight in Marawi on Tuesday, as military officials expressed confidence that they were within days of ending an almost four-month long siege in the southern city.
As the military struggled to clear an estimated few dozen militants, the United States said it had deployed one of its most advanced surveillance drones to help Philippine government forces end the battle in Marawi.
Ethnic tensions between Myanmar’s Muslims and majority Buddhists spilled over into the country’s central Magway division on Sunday, when a mob attacked a Muslim butcher’s home in Taungdwingyi township and then marched on a local mosque before being dispersed by police.
The Buddhist mob, which grew to number about 70 and was later joined by 400 villagers, was led at first by a smaller group of masked young men, a local parliamentarian told the Myanmar Service of Radio Free Asia (RFA), a sister entity of BenarNews.
by Kamran Reza Chowdhury, Jesmin Papri and Abdur Rahman, Dhaka and Cox’s Bazar, Bangladesh
Dhaka on Wednesday demanded that Myanmar de-escalate violence in Rakhine state that has produced an “unbearable” and “unprecedented” influx of Rohingya refugees into Bangladesh, in a third diplomatic protest lodged in less than two weeks amid a burgeoning humanitarian crisis.
Also Wednesday, the bodies of five people allegedly shot by Myanmar security forces were found near a river bank near the border in Ukhia district, a local policeman told BenarNews.
By Kamran Reza Chowdhury and Abdur Rahman, Dhaka and Cox’s Bazar, Bangladesh
Bangladesh wants the world to help it resolve a burdensome new Rohingya Muslim humanitarian crisis, Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina told Turkey’s visiting first lady and foreign minister on Thursday after they toured refugee camps in the country’s southeast.
Top government officials in Myanmar are discussing how to strengthen and extend border fencing along the border with Bangladesh as clashes go on between Myanmar security forces and Muslim insurgents, forcing thousands to flee their homes.
As many as 164,000 Rohingya have crossed the border into Bangladesh since Aug. 25, according to figures updated by the U.N. on Thursday.
By Kamran Reza Chowdhury and Abdur Rahman
Dhaka and Cox’s Bazar, Bangladesh
Bangladesh said Tuesday it was scrambling to build camps for Rohingya refugees in the southeast of the country, as an influx of people fleeing violence in Myanmar soared to 123,000, according to U.N. estimates, and international pressure on both countries intensified sharply.
Kamran Reza Chowdhury and Abdur Rahman
Dhaka and Cox’s Bazar, Bangladesh
The number of Rohingya Muslims who have escaped to southeastern Bangladesh from a new wave of violence in Myanmar has surpassed 70,000, stretching humanitarian resources at already crowded refugee camps, the U.N. said Sunday, as local officials struggled to control the rapidly growing influx.