Manila, May 23 (IANS) Dozens of people in Manila on Wednesday asked Philippines President Rodrigo Duterte to end martial law in Marawi that was besieged last year by militants affiliated with the Islamic State terror group.
The protest to mark the first anniversary of the start of the siege saw demonstrators, including Filipino Muslims and members of the Lumad indigenous group, shouted slogans and carried banners reading “End Martial Law in MindaNow”, Efe news reported.
Protesters, who set fire to a caricature of Duterte, depicted as a puppet of the US, ended their march outside the Malacanang presidential palace.
On Tuesday, Duterte accepted full responsibility for the way the siege by the IS-inspired Maute rebel group was dealt with when over 1,000 people died in the city on the southern island of Mindanao.
“We had a very sad experience in the Marawi siege. And we all know that we have fallen short in some respects in the way it was handled. I assume full responsibility”, Duterte said.
The International Committee for the Red Cross (ICRC) issued a statement, calling on Duterte’s government to increase support for the 230,000 people who were displaced by the military action.
On May 23 last year, the Maute terror group, aided by local and foreign militants, took up arms in Marawi, raising black Islamic State flags and setting fire to a police station, a school, a prison and a church. They gained a stronghold in several neighbourhoods and took hundreds of hostages.
In response, Duterte declared martial law across the entire Mindanao region — home to around 20 million people — a measure that is set to continue throughout this year.
The Army, backed by air support, freed the city from Maute militants in operations that lasted till October 23, 2017. The conflict led to the deaths of 920 insurgents, 165 soldiers and 47 civilians. At least 1,780 hostages were released and 850 weapons were recovered from militants.