Some militants may have escaped with evacuees

This article is more than 12 months old

MARAWI CITY, PHILIPPINES: The Philippines military said yesterday that some of the Islamist militants who stormed Marawi City in the south of the country last month may have mingled with evacuees to slip away during the battle that has raged for nearly four weeks.

Brigadier General Restituto Padilla said security had been tightened in the cities of Iligan and Cagayan de Oro and the authorities there were on the lookout for suspicious characters who might "attempt to sow some confusion or sow terror".

"We're not denying that there's probably a few who may have slipped along with the evacuees from Marawi going to Iligan and Cagayan de Oro," he told reporters in Manila, while OV-10 aircraft in Marawi pounded an area where militants have been holed up since May 23.

The military says that up to 200 fighters, most of them from local insurgent groups that have pledged allegiance to the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria along with some foreign fighters, are holding out, using civilians as human shields and mosques as safe havens.

The defence ministers and military chiefs of Indonesia, Malaysia and the Philippines will meet in the Indonesian town of Tarakan on Monday to discuss the threat and agree on steps to coordinate better to confront terrorism.

A port town, Tarakan is just south of the Malaysian side of Borneo and looks out across the sea to Mindanao, a sprawling island that has been plagued by insurgencies and banditry for decades. - REUTERS