Philippine military jets fired rockets at militant positions Saturday as soldiers fought to wrest control of a southern city from gunmen linked to the Islamic State group, witnesses said. Civilians waved flags from their windows to show they are not combatants. The city of Marawi, home to some 200,000 people, has been under siege by IS-linked militants since a failed raid Tuesday night on a suspected hideout of Isnilon Hapilon, who is on Washington’s list of most-wanted terrorists. Hapilon got away and fighters loyal to him took over parts of the city, burning buildings and seizing about a dozen hostages, including a priest. Their condition was not known. At least 44 people have died in the fighting, including 31 militants and 11 soldiers, officials say. It was not clear whether civilians were among the dead.
The violence prompted President Rodrigo Duterte on Tuesday to declare 60 days of martial law in the southern Philippines, where a Muslim rebellion has raged for decades. But the recent violence has raised fears that extremism could be growing as smaller militant groups unify and align themselves with the ideology of the Islamic State group. Although Hapilon and other groups in the southern Philippines have pledged allegiance to the IS, there is no clear sign of significant, material ties. Thousands of civilians have been fleeing.
“I saw two jets swoop down and fire at rebel positions repeatedly,” Alexander Mangundatu, a security guard, told The Associated Press in Marawi as a plume of black smoke billowed in the distance. “I pity the civilians and the women who were near the targeted area. They’re getting caught in the conflict and I hope this ends soon.”
Military spokesman Brig. Gen. Restituto Padilla said government forces are working to “clear the city of all remnants of this group.”
He said some civilians refused to evacuate because they want to guard their homes, slowing down the government operations.
“But that’s fine as long as civilians are not hurt,” Padilla said. On Friday, Duterte ordered his troops to crush the militants, warning that the country is at a grave risk of “contamination” by the Islamic State group. Duterte told soldiers in Iligan, a city near Marawi, that he had long feared that “contamination by ISIS” loomed in the country’s future, using the acronym for the Islamic State group.
“You can say that ISIS is here already,” he said.
Lt. Gen. Carlito G. Galvez Jr., a military commander, said civilians are enduring “extreme deprivation” because government services are unavailable and shops are closed.
“These terrorist atrocities continue to sow terror and confusion even to noncombatant Muslims and Christians,” he said in a statement. Hapilon is still hiding out in the city under the protection of gunmen who are desperately trying to find a way to extricate him, said the Philippines’ military chief, Gen. Eduardo Ano. He said Hapilon suffered a stroke after a government airstrike wounded him in January. Ano predicted that the military operation will take about a week as soldiers go house to house to clear the city of militants.
In a sign that the long-standing problem of militancy in the south could be expanding, Solicitor General Jose Calida said foreigners were fighting alongside the gunmen in Marawi, including Indonesians and Malaysians. Ano also said foreign fighters were believed to be inside, but he was more cautious. “We suspect that, but we’re still validating,” he said. Hapilon, an Islamic preacher, is a commander of the Abu Sayyaf militant group who pledged allegiance to the Islamic State group in 2014. He also heads an alliance of at least 10 smaller militant groups, including the Maute, which have a heavy presence in Marawi and were instrumental in fighting off government forces in this week’s battles.
Washington has offered a $5 million reward for information leading to Hapilon’s capture.
On the last day of school at Mount Paran Christian School in Cobb County, Georgia, a group of 2nd-graders couldn t wait to show their admiration for their beloved school security guard, Jonathan Broaxnax.
The students crossed the street to shower Broaxnax with hugs and high-fives, a heartwarming moment caught on the school s security camera.
I’ve got to tell you, it made me feel so good, Broaxnax, 63, told ABC News. Not only because they did that, but because it s what this school is all about. It s a Christian school and they instill that into these kids.
The military veteran, who now works for the Chesley Brown International security company, said the children s kind gesture was particularly special for him in light of the recent attack on a concert in Manchester, England, where many children were in attendance.
They re young but they re seeing it on TV and they wonder Why? and What the heck is going on? and Can that happen to me at my little school?, he explained. They were saying things like, Thank you for protecting us, thank you so much Mr. Jonathan, thank you for keeping us safe. You can t hear the sound on the video, but that was what they were actually saying. Oh man I tell you if the video ran just a little bit longer, you would see me run inside and cry.
Broadnax said out of all the jobs he s had in his life, working with these kids is by far the most fulfilling.
I ve been in the military for 22 years, I ve been to the Gulf War, I got out of the military and started to work in the prison system in Texas, he recalled. I worked there for about five or six years and then I got into security. Out of all of that, this is the most fulfilling job I have ever had. Easily.
This isn t the first time the students and faculty have showered Broadnax with admiration and affection. He said they were pivotal in helping him through the darkest moment of his life: the death of his son two years ago.
I lost a son while I was working here and this place, everybody here was so incredible, he said. “The support they gave me here was awesome. After I got back from the funeral, the kids came up to me again and each one of them had handwritten cards of condolences. I ve got all those cards at home. That was just so incredible. And I couldn t hold it in. I cried right there.
The school s headmaster, Dr. David Tilley, said Broadnax is cherished on their campus.
He is beloved around here, said Tilley. It s amazing how many people come onto our campus for the very first time and see him and walk into my office before they go anywhere else and say, Let me tell you, the guy who welcomed us at the front gates is one of the most gracious, cordial, hospitable men they ve ever come across. He is warm and kind and loving to anyone he comes across. He is a thrill to have on our campus and he s the first face people see.
But the humble Broadnax takes absolutely no credit for his service to the school, saying simply, It s focused on those kids.
It s focused on how they feel, how they feel safe. And how they re being raised, he said. And what it means for them to attend the Mount Paran Christian School.
COULDN’T FIND A MONKEY SITTER
When scanners detected the creature, the woman told security staff casually ‘oh that’s my monkey’
SHOCKED court staff have revealed the bizarre moment they discovered a tiny squirrel MONKEY in a woman s bag after the animal was picked up by an x-ray machine. Linda Stevenson tried to smuggle the creature into the building in her handbag because she couldn t find a monkeysitter .
Linda Stevenson and her tiny monkey Apollo which she tried unsuccessfully to smuggle into court
But a scanner captured an image of the miniature skeleton within Stevenson s purse when security guards checked her belongings. Pat McIver, a security guard at the court building in Bay County, Michigan, USA, described the unusual incident last Thursday.
I was like what was that? She goes, oh, that s my monkey.’
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I said I need to see your monkey .
She unzipped her purse, the monkey stuck its head out and looked around, and then she zipped it back up. McIver explained that the animal was not allowed in the building, but the woman later brought the primate back for an introduction after conducting her small claims business. McIver said the 10-month-old monkey climbed over his shoulder before returning to the bag when instructed.
Ms Stevenson said she though her amazing primate would be allowed in the courthouse because it is registered as an emotional service animal.
I didn t have a monkey-sitter and I thought I d only be a few minutes, she said. It emerged that last year Stevenson failed in a bid to have legislation in Bay City altered so she could keep the pet monkey and moved to Oakland County. A greedy monkey is being sent to a fat camp after ballooning to TWICE the normal weight after gorging on food from tourists, while heartbreaking footage showed a tiny baby monkey clutched to its dead mother after she was hit by a speeding car.
Bananas moment cheeky monkey walks up behind man and grabs his crotch
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