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.
Felipe Villamor, Mark Navales and Jeoffrey Maitem
Humanitarian agencies have warned of a deepening crisis at evacuation camps for thousands of people uprooted by months of fighting in Marawi, with nearly all shut out from immediate job prospects and disabled ones appearing to have been neglected.
BenarNews reporters visited some of these camps on the outskirts of the besieged southern Philippine city recently and found that while many evacuees said they felt safe, they were looking toward the future with fear.
The bodies of 19 Rohingya refugees – nine women and 10 children – washed ashore Thursday in southeastern Bangladesh, local authorities said, as they struggled to control an exodus from Myanmar that swelled to close to 30,000 people within the past week.
Since the influx from an outbreak of violence in the neighboring Myanmar state of Rakhine began on Aug. 24, Bangladesh police said they recovered 23 bodies in all, including the 19 people whose bodies were found Thursday after their boats capsized as the refugees tried to cross the Naaf River that separates the two countries.
Myanmar’s neighbors reacted with growing concern Wednesday as the International Organization of Migration (IOM) said that more than 18,000 Rohingya Muslims had fled their homes within the past week after a spate of violence erupted in Rakhine state.
In Dhaka, Bangladesh Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina called on the United States to pressure Myanmar into stopping the influx of Rohingya into her country’s southeastern region from Rakhine, which is just across the border.
By Prapti Rahman
Dozens of family members of alleged victims of enforced disappearances urged Bangladesh’s government Tuesday to create an impartial commission to probe hundreds of abductions that, according to human rights groups, involved suspected law-enforcement officers.
At least 388 people were abducted in Bangladesh during the past eight years, according to a joint statement released simultaneously by international human rights groups in Dhaka, Bangkok, Hong Kong and Manila.
By Froilan Gallardo, Cagayan de Oro, Philippines
Two women died and more than 50 homes were damaged when a moderately strong quake measuring 5.1 magnitude on the Richter scale jolted parts of the central Philippines on Wednesday, police and disaster relief officials said.
One of the casualties was identified as Rosita Baloro, 70, who died of a heart attack as a result of the temblor in central Ormoc city, local police spokeswoman Ma. Elma delos Santos said.
By Jeoffrey Maitem and Froilan Gallardo
Clashes marred Tuesday’s reopening of university classes in the ruined southern Philippine city of Marawi as soldiers moved to drive out militants linked to the Islamic State (IS) from the downtown area they hold just two kilometers (1.2 miles) away.
About 8,000 Mindanao State University students braved the fighting and were bused into the area only to be greeted by explosions as a few militants hiding in a mosque fired at troops.