By Chris Tomson
DAMASCUS, SYRIA (9:45 P.M.) – New details have emerged regarding the ongoing battle for Marawi, a predominately Sunni city in the southern Philippines which is home to over 200,000 residents and witnessed a large-scale ISIS insurgency on Thursday.
According to Amaq Agency, some 70 soldiers of the Philippine Armed Forces have been killed in the battle for Marawi since Tuesday while an additional 10 were killed in an ambush on two armored vehicles patrolling the Jolo municipality on the island of Jolo.
In contrast, the Philippine Army said they had only sustained 8 deaths and 31 injuries to their forces while 13 ISIS militants had been killed. Meanwhile, the Phillipine Air Force conducted dozens of pinpoints airstrikes over the city on Thursday.
Islamic State forces in the Philippines are composed of the two franchise groups, known as Maute and Abu Sayyaf, both of whom have sworn alliegence to ISIS leader Abu Bakr Al-Baghdadi.
Pictures of ISIS militants inside Marawi, backing up earlier exclusive reports by Al-Masdar News which indicated jihadists had captured most of the city:
ISIS reportedly also captured a lot of military vehicles, ammunition storages and weapons from the Philippine Army which temporarily withdrew from much of the city on Tuesday, allowing ISIS to capture Marawi’s main hospital, police station and prison among other key facilities.
Some 500 ISIS insurgents are estimated to be scattered across Marawi, controlling much of the city despite a somewhat succesful army counter-offensive on Thursday.
Unless Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte and his army are able to defeat the jihadist rebellion quickly, the Islamic State may use Marawi as regional capital to expand its influence in southeast Asia.