Philippines: Hundreds have been killed in besieged Marawi city, says politician

The military says 290 people have died in over three weeks of fighting, including 206 militants, 58 soldiers and 26 civilians.

Thousands flee amidst military claim of stability in Philippines
Government troops check a vehicle evacuating residents from their hometown of Marawi city in the southern Philippines, as it drives past a military checkpoint in Pantar town, Lanao del Norte, Philippines May 24, 2017. Reuters

A Philippines politician said on Thursday that the residents fleeing the besieged Marawi City had seen hundreds of dead bodies in an area where intense fighting has taken place between security forces and Islamist militants in the last three weeks.

"They said (they saw) around 500-1,000 dead bodies," Zia Alonto Adiong, a politician in the area who is helping in rescue and relief efforts, told Reuters. The military said 290 people have died in over three weeks of fighting, including 206 militants, 58 soldiers and 26 civilians.

Meanwhile, the Philippines military said that it has arrested one of the Maute brothers on Thursday, a senior member of the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS)-backed militants it is fighting in a southern city. Lt Col Jo-Ar Herrera, a military spokesman said Mohammad Noaim Maute was arrested at a checkpoint near the coastal city of Cagayan de Oro just after dawn.

According to reports, two of Mohammad's brothers, Omarkhayam and Abdullah, lead the Maute gang. This group is at the forefront of a vicious battle with security forces for Marawi City, that is now in its fourth week.

Although, Marawi is about 100 km south of Cagayan de Oro, but it was not clear whether Mohammad was coming from the besieged city. Most of the other seven Maute brothers, including Omarkhayam and Abdullah, are believed to be in Marawi. Their parents were taken into custody last week in separate cities.

Brigadier-General Gilbert Gapay, spokesman for the military's Eastern Mindanao Command, said Maute was a suspected bomb-maker for the group. He added that Maute was holding a fake student card of the Mindanao State University, based in Marawi, when stopped at the checkpoint. He was not armed.

The local police said Maute, an Arabic language teacher, readily admitted his identity when questioned. They also added that he was now being questioned.