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Airstrikes launched anew in Marawi

By FRANCIS T. WAKEFIELD with a report from Genalyn D. Kabiling

The Armed Forces conducted airstrike in Marawi City yesterday using other aircraft a day after the military temporarily grounded the FA-50PH fighter jets they are using following Wednesday’s accident in which two soldiers were killed and 11 others were wounded.

In a press briefing in Camp Aguinaldo, Quezon City, AFP spokesman Brig. Gen. Restituto Padilla said the Philippine Air Force is using the OV10 and MG-520 bombers and SF-260 and AW attack helicopters in airstrikes against buildings still occupied by the Islamic State-inspired militants.

“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.

“It’s still available to our commanders on the ground to employ the available aircraft minus this particular aircraft,” he added.

Padilla said that the military is not using the FA-50PH aircraft for any further airstrikes in Marawi until such time that the cause of the accident has been determined or the failure of the equipment has been known.

“Until such time that we are sure of the cause of one of those bombs falling short of target will we then resume the use of that aircraft,” Padilla said.

A Super Radyo DZBB report said the airstrikes were conducted before 9 a.m. and gunfire erupted between soldiers and the Maute Group at the same time. Fires also broke out in areas were the airstrikes were conducted.

Meanwhile, the government is expecting a higher civilian death toll in the hands of the enemy as security forces advance operations against terrorists in Marawi.

Presidential spokesman Ernesto Abella said troops recently recovered the remains of six persons believed to be executed by terrorists, resulting to a civilian casualty count of 45 as of July 13.

“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. “It may rise based on potential execution of hostages or civilians killed in action,” he said.

Padilla said troops are pursuing around 80 terrorists still holed up in Marawi.

Around 600 buildings remain 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. “That’s why they’re all determined to hold on to the territory that was held already by our troops.”

The fighting has been raging for more than a month now. President Duterte said he hopes the conflict will be over in 10 to 15 days, citing some government difficulty due to heavy supply of enemy arsenal.

Three hundred ninety four militants and 93 troops have been killed in the conflict.