Philippines soldiers killed in 'friendly fire' air strike

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Eleven Philippine soldiers were killed and seven others injured in a "friendly fire" incident in the city of Marawi, defence officials said on Thursday.

National Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana revealed today during an event in Mandaluyong City that 10 soldiers were unintentionally killed and 8 were wounded by government forces' own airstrike on Wednesday, May 31.

Brig-Gen Padilla said the armed forces recovered high-powered firearms and materials that can be used to construct improvised explosive devices.

Military spokesman Restituto Padilla said an investigation would be held to establish how the air force plane killed ground troops.

"It's sad but sometimes it happens in the fog of war". Lorenzana said Thursday fighters from various militant groups that gathered in the Marawi siege had a big plan to take over the city.

Security forces have been battling militants flying the black flags of the Islamic State (IS) group in Marawi, a major Muslim city in the predominantly Catholic Philippines, since Tuesday last week.

The government yesterday said another rebel group, the Moro Islamic Liberation Front had agreed to help get civilians, dead or alive, out of Marawi and had accepted Mr Duterte's unconventional offer for communists, separatists and the military to unite against radical Islam.

The military added 21 armoured vehicles and a third battalion of troops to the operation on Thursday. "You can not use them for anti-insurgency, which is the problem at the moment".

The minister raised the possibility of limiting airstrikes if government troops converge within cities controlled by militants.

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It remains unclear whether the jet's bombs landed on the wrong position or the ground troops had entered the location without updating those in the air, but Lorenzana said signs pointed to "pilot error".

The air strike hit Marawi on the southern island of Mindanao. He said that militant leader Isnilon Hapilon is believed to be still in Marawi.

As of Thursday, the crisis has claimed almost 180 lives: 36 soldiers and policemen, 120 Maute members, including foreign fighters, and 19 civilians.

About 2,000 civilians are also trapped in the militant-held areas, according to the local government.

Civilians have reported "a lot of foreign-looking fighters" in Marawi, he added.

"This thing that we see today is the first time that any terror organization in Southeast Asia has taken the bold step to actually overtake an entire territory", said Jasminder Singh, a senior terrorism analyst at the S. Rajaratnam School of International Studies in Singapore.

Hapilon is an Islamic preacher and former commander of the Abu Sayyaf militant group who pledged allegiance to the Islamic State group in 2014.

He changed his mind on last week's offer of dialogue with the Maute and said he "will not talk to terrorists".