Women and children fight alongside Isis in Marawi against Duterte's army

Pro-Isis militants destroy church in Marawi, PhilippinesReuters

Women and children are fighting alongside Isis militants against the Philippine army around Marawi, it was announced on Monday (4 September).

Philippine soldiers encountered armed resistance from women and children when they surrounded the city on the southern island of Mindanao in their final push to end the conflict between militants from terrorist groups Abu Sayyaf and the Maute fighting the army.

"Our troops in the field are seeing women and children shooting at our troops so that's why it seems they are not running out of fighters," Lieutenant General Carlito Galvez told local media.

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Although military operations have reached the final phase, more "intense and bloody fighting" should be expected, Galvez warned.

"We may suffer heavier casualties as the enemy becomes more desperate," he said.

The military has recaptured key areas of the city, including its main mosque, but dozens of militants are believed to still be hiding in the densely populated area.

Galvez said that militant numbers are greatly diminished and that women and children have become involved in the combat recently in a last desperate stand for Isis-affiliated militants.

More than 800 people have been killed since the battle broke out on 23 May, when militants started to occupy large areas of the predominantly Muslim city.

Abu Sayyaf's leader, Isnilon Hapilon, is commanding the militants trying to seize control of the city after a military operation to capture him in May failed. He is believed to be hiding in the city, in its dense maze of streets, mosques and houses, which are all connected by tunnels.

The leader of the Maute group, Abdullah Maute, is believed to have been killed in an airstrike last month, according to Galvez.

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The lieutenant said Telegram, the messaging service used by Isis militants, carried tributes to Abdullah, indicating that he had died.

"There is no 100% confirmation until we see his cadaver but this is enough to presume he died already," he said.

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