World

Marawi resembling Mosul

Satellite images show Philippine city reduced to rubble after airstrikes and artillery pummel rebel-held districts


Weeks of airstrikes and artillery barrages have reduced half of the southern Philippine city of Marawi into a wide swathe of pummelled buildings, obliterated houses and bomb craters in a scene likened to that in Mosul, Iraq.

Satellite images from Stratfor, a private intelligence firm, showed half the neighbourhoods of Marawi, once home to more than 200,000 people, affected by bombings, with entire city blocks flattened.

Fires erupt almost every day, set off either by bombing runs or by the Muslim militants who have clung to chokepoints at the centre of Marawi, just across a river from the capitol.

"We didn't expect it to be that big. We heard about the airstrikes and artillery, but it's pretty bad throughout the city," Mr Sim Tack, a senior analyst at Stratfor, told CNN.

"When I've looked at other war zones, the closest thing to compare (Marawi) to is Mosul (Iraq). I haven't seen battlefields where all houses were destroyed like that."

About 500 gunmen stormed Marawi on May 23 in an audacious bid to occupy it as a "province" of the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS).

Government troops have been pummeling rebel-held districts with airstrikes and artillery barrages since.

BOXED

Security forces have boxed the militants inside a 1km area in Bangolo, once a thriving commercial district.

Satellite images from Stratfor showed this district and much of the areas around it reduced to rubble.

One of the only buildings that remains standing is the Masjed Mindanao Islamic Centre, in what could have been a deliberate move by the authorities.

General Eduardo Ano, the military chief, has said his men will not bomb the mosque, in deference to Muslims.

But intelligence sources believe the militants' leader who masterminded the siege, Isnilon Hapilon, is hiding there, surrounded by hostages being used as "human shields".

Despite few signs that security forces will be retaking Marawi any time soon, the Philippine government has already started making reconstruction plans to rebuild the city.

President Rodrigo Duterte last week created a task force and set aside 20 billion pesos (S$545 million) to rebuild what was once a centre of Islamic culture and tradition.

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