World

Flag ceremony performed in Marawi as fighting continues

MARAWI CITY: Bomb blasts rocked this city in the southern Philippines yesterday as the national flag was raised to mark independence day, almost three weeks after hundreds of Muslim militants overran the town and hunkered down with civilians as human shields.

Rescue workers, soldiers and firemen sang the national anthem and listened to speeches as three OV-10 attack aircraft darted through the cloudy sky, taking turns to drop bombs on areas where fighters were still holed up.

"To our Muslim brothers there, we want to tell them to stop their meaningless fight because we are all Muslims," Vice-Provincial Governor Mamintal Adiong Jr told the gathering.

Flag ceremonies are normally performed twice a week, but this was the first in the mainly Muslim town since May 23, the first day of the siege, when the militants killed and abducted Christians, and torched a cathedral.

The seizure of Marawi by fighters allied to the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria, including some from the Middle East, has alarmed South-east Asian nations which fear the ultra-radical group - on a backfoot in Iraq and Syria - is trying to set up a stronghold on Mindanao that could threaten their region.

Philippines President Rodrigo Duterte said on Sunday he had not expected the battle for Marawi to be as serious as it has turned out.- REUTERS

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