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General leading offensive against ISIS relieved of command

MARAWI CITY/MANILA: The general leading an offensive against pro-Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS) militants holed up in a southern Philippine town has been relieved of his command, an army spokesman said yesterday, the 11th day of the country's biggest security crisis in years, Reuters reported.

The removal of Brigadier-General Nixon Fortes as commander of the army brigade in Marawi City and his replacement with his deputy, Colonel Generoso Ponio, was not related to the battle that has raged in the city, the spokesman said.

On Wednesday, an air strike aimed at flushing out rebels killed 10 troops, a major blow that the army said was an accident of the sort that sometimes happens in the "fog of war".

Asked if the course of the conflict was the reason for BG Fortes' replacement, spokesman Lieutenant-Colonel Ray Tiongson said: "That's not the reason."

In a separate development, Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte on Thursday said the international terror group ISIS was behind the terror attacks in Marawi city.

PURELY ISIS

"What's really happening, the rebellion in Mindanao, it's not Maute; it's purely ISIS with different brands because they started it," Mr Duterte said in a speech during the oath-taking of newly appointed government officials at Malacanang. Maute is a Philippine-based militant group that has pledged allegiance to ISIS.

He said the Marawi siege, which started on May 23, "has long been planned" after ISIS named Abu Sayyaf leader Isnilon Hapilon as its emir in the country, the Philippine Daily Inquirer reported.

"It could not be just a decision that, 'Let's go to Mindanao.' It has been thoroughly planned," he said.- REUTERS

terrorismPhilippinesISIS