Source: Dhaka Tribune
Embattled Philippine troops struggling to drive Islamist militants from a southern city raised the national flag for Independence Day on Monday, in a tearful ceremony dedicated to the scores killed during the conflict. Thousands of Philippine soldiers, advised by US special forces, are locked in fierce combat with hundreds of insurgents who overran Marawi city on May 23, flying black flags of the Islamic State (IS) group and using up to 2,000 civilians as human shields.
As gunfire rang out and planes flew bombing raids to pummel districts of the largely abandoned city, a crowd of soldiers and teary-eyed officials, firemen, police and clerks gathered outside a nearby government building to raise the Philippine flag.
“This is dedicated to soldiers who offered their lives to implement our mission in Marawi city,” said Colonel Jose Maria Cuerpo, commander of an army brigade fighting in Marawi.
The annual ceremony marks the anniversary of an armed revolt against Spanish colonial rule. The Philippines actually won independence from the United States in 1946.
All military camps and government agencies will fly their flags at half-mast on Tuesday in honour of the troops killed in Marawi, said military spokesman Colonel Edgard Arevalo.
In the latest casualties, 13 Philippine Marines were killed on Friday in ferocious street-to-street battles.
Fighting in the city has left a total of 58 soldiers and police and more than 20 civilians dead, the military said, estimating that almost 200 militants have been killed.
The last time the Philippine security forces sustained large numbers of deaths was in 2015, when 44 police commandos were killed in a botched attempt to capture a Malaysian Islamist militant in the same region.