By Francis T. Wakefield and Genalyn D. Kabiling
The Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) said that airstrikes in parts of Marawi City still controlled by Isis-inspired Maute group terrorists will continue despite last Wednesday’s airstrike accident that killed two soldiers wounded 11 others.
The incident resulted in the grounding of the 12 FA-50PH training aircraft from South Korea starting Thursday.
In a related development, the government fears that the death toll for civilians will rise further as security forces step up operations against local terrorists in Marawi City,
In a press briefing at Camp Aguinaldo, Quezon City, AFP spokesman Brig. Gen. Restituto Padilla said despite the temporary grounding of the FA-50 PH planes, the Philippine Air Force is still using OV 10 and MG-520 bombers, and SF-260 and AW Attack Helicopters in the Marawi City airstrikes.
“The incident that happened, however, will not cancel out or prevent the use of any other aircraft other than this one for further airstrikes so that we can provide our troops the necessary support that they will need in terms of close air support, field artillery support, and other combat support that they will require,” Padilla said.
Presidential spokesman Ernesto Abella said government troops recently recovered the remains of six persons believed to be executed by terrorists, increasing the number of recorded civilians killed to 45.
“This count is based on body recoveries but as we go deeper into that, into the contested areas, we expect the numbers to rise,” Abella said in a Palace press briefing.
“It may rise based on potential execution of hostages or civilians killed in action,” he said.
To date, the conflict has left 532 people dead, including 394 terrorists a 93 soldiers and police officers.
The fighting between government troops and Islamic State-linked Maute group terrorists has been raging forclose to two months now.
President Duterte recently said he hopes the Marawi City conflict will be over in 10 to 15 days.
Padilla said the troops are pursuing around 80 Maute group members believed to be still holed up in Marawi.
Around 600 buildings have yet to be cleared by government forces. They also trying to recover around 300 civilians still trapped in the area.
“Our troops are leaning forward. They really want to finish this fight as soon as possible,” Padilla said in the same Palace news conference.
“That’s why they’re all determined to hold on to the territory that was held already by our troops,” he added.
Tags: Armed Forces of the Philippines, AW Attack Helicopters, Ernesto Abella, ISIS-inspired Maute Group, Marawi airstrikes to continue despite mishap, Marawi city, Philippine Air Force, Restituto Padilla