| MARAWI CITY, Philippines, June 4
MARAWI CITY, Philippines, June 4 Thousands of
civilians hoping to flee fighting in the besieged Philippines
city of Marawi remained trapped on Sunday after a four-hour
ceasefire to evacuate residents was marred by gunfire.
Only 134 were freed on Sunday, less than on previous days,
despite government hopes that more than 1,000 would be able to
leave a city battered by 13 days of intense fighting.
Philippines president Rodrigo Duterte predicted the siege
would be over within days despite fierce resistance by fighters
aligned to Islamic State in the dense urban heart of the
southern Philippines city.
"This will be over in about three more days," Duterte said
on Saturday after visiting a hospital in Cagayan de Oro where
wounded soldiers were being treated.
"I will not hesitate to use every power available."
About 400 local militants reinforced by about 40 foreign
fighters stormed Marawi on May 23, using sophisticated
battlefield tactics to take control of large swaths of the
They have been pushed back to the city centre by Philippines
forces over the past week after some 4,000 ground troops were
bolstered by helicopters and aircraft deploying rockets and
Many residents have told Reuters that the airstrikes caused
extensive property damage and dozens of civilian deaths.
Authorities lifted the civilian death toll from 20 to 38 on
Sunday - but said all those deaths were caused by militants.
A presidential spokesman said 120 militants had died, along
with 38 government forces.
Duterte said the use of air power had been restrained so
"I can end this war in 24 hours," he said. "All I have to do
is to bomb the whole place and level it to the ground."
Duterte has asked the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF),
an Islamic separatist movement based on the Philippines island
of Mindanao, to help negotiate a peace settlement with the
Islamist fighters, who are predominantly drawn from the Maute
Group based in and around Marawi.
Marawi, dubbed the "Islamic City of Marawi", is also located
on Mindanao, which has a large Muslim population in a
predominantly Catholic country and been destabilised by
separatist insurgencies for decades.
MILF cadres organised Sunday's ceasefire, which was to run
from 8 am until noon. They roamed the streets with loud hailers
urging residents to leave.
But by 9am, gunfire had broken out, apparently deterring
residents from joining a mass exodus.
Marawi City's mayor Majul Gandamra, told reporters on Sunday
morning he was expecting "more or less 1,000 plus to be rescued
today". In the end, 134 were evacuated, less than previous days
when there were no ceasefires. About 2,000 civilians remain in
Irene Santiago, appointed by Duterte to organise the "peace
corridor", said the effort had been a success, noting the
fighting was several kilometres away from where the evacuation
She said negotiations were continuing with the Maute for
another temporary ceasefire on Monday.
(Reporting by Tom Allard; Editing by Richard Pullin)