Fierce fighting between government forces and jihadist militants has spread to the streets of the southern island city of Marawi in the Philippines. Amid the ongoing offensive, locals of various religions have been helping each other survive and flee for their lives.
More than 160 people, nearly 50 children among them, were rescued from Marawi on Saturday, the army said. The city has become a key hot spot in the ongoing crackdown on terrorists, affiliated with Islamic State (IS, formerly ISIS/ISIL) in the Western Pacific nation.
At least 20 civilians and 38 military died on Saturday, Reuters reported, citing officials, who added that some 120 terrorists had been killed.
With parts of the Philippines now full-blown war zones, civilians have found themselves under threat of being caught in the crossfire. Mass evacuations are under way in battle zones such as Marawi, RT’s Charlotte Dubenskij says, reporting from the city.
On Saturday, following an impromptu ceasefire to let civilians evacuate, fighter jets dropped bombs on the city center.
“We are afraid, sometimes helicopters fire at us, and the jihadists might kill us too,” a local man told RT.
Among those who managed to escape this week is an Islamic writer and former politician, Noor Lucman. The Muslim man, who studied in Saudi Arabia with Osama bin Laden, told RT’s Charlotte Dubenskij how he managed to cheat terrorists knocking at his door and save dozens of Christians.
There were some Christian workers doing repair work in the area a day before the fighting unfolded, he said. These people “couldn’t leave the city, so I had to take responsibility in protecting them,” he told reporters of their ordeal.