Philippine military: Children forced to fight alongside Islamic State

Eloi Lecerf
Julho 11, 2017

Militants aligned to the IS seized the town of Marawi, considered the Muslim capital of the largely Catholic Philippines, on May 23 in a bid to create an IS province.

The army is fighting around 100 insurgents who have control over four neighbourhoods in the Marawi city.

Some of the extremists are teenagers who may have been recruited and trained to use guns when they were still children, said Brigadier-General Restituto Padilla, a military spokesman.

"We continuously get disturbing narratives from [escaped residents] that children as well as hostages are being employed in the firefight", Padilla said.

"Every time there is an opportunity to rescue a child or an individual who is forced into the fight, we will do that", Padilla said.

"As disturbing as it is, our troops are doing their best to avoid any casualty among these children that are being employed", Padilla said.

"But they carry weapons and are involved in the fighting, then it is hard to do more", he added. "Similarly to the hostages who are being forced (to fight)".

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Shortly after seizing Marawi, militants took at least a dozen hostages, including a Catholic priest. It is estimated that approximately 300 the number of people still trapped in the areas controlled by the jihadists, and some could now be hostages.

He noted civilians are being forced to carry supplies and ammunition, attend to the wounded and loot the city.

More than 500 people have died in seven weeks of fighting, including 89 police officers and soldiers, 39 civilians and 379 jihadists, according to the latest government figures published on Monday.

Meanwhile, the Department of Social Welfare and Development (DSWD) reported that a total of 101,013 families or 471, 224 have been displaced as of July 9 because of the conflict.

The conflict led Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte to declare martial law on the entire island of Mindanao, where some 20 million people live.

UNICEF said Monday in a release there is "little known first-hand information about the situation inside the city due to limited access".

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