Army says battle for Philippine city to end soon, 1,000 dead

Philippine troops have missed previous deadlines to flush out the militants whom authorities said intended to establish a local Daesh caliphate. (AFP)
Updated 16 October 2017
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Army says battle for Philippine city to end soon, 1,000 dead

MARAWI: Philippine troops Sunday bombed militants loyal to the Daesh group who have held out for over four months in a southern city and the military said the conflict would be over “very soon.”
The army previously set a target of Sunday to end the fighting in Marawi, which it said has killed more than 1,000 people. Troops have missed previous deadlines to flush out the militants whom authorities said intended to establish a local Daesh caliphate.
On Sunday FA-50 fighter jets flew over Marawi as soldiers fought the militants house-to-house in an area which has now shrunk to about five acres (two hectares), a military spokesman said.
“We are hoping that we will end this Marawi siege very soon,” Col. Romeo Brawner, deputy commander of the task force battling the militants, told reporters.
Pro-Daesh gunmen occupied parts of Marawi, the Islamic capital of the mainly Catholic Philippines, on May 23.
Since then 822 militants, 162 government forces and 47 civilians have been killed, Brawner said.
The insurgents have withstood a relentless US-backed bombing campaign and intense ground battles with troops that have left large parts of Marawi resembling devastated cities in war-torn Syria and Iraq.
Military commanders last week set a target of October 15 to end the fighting and President Rodrigo Duterte on Friday said the battle was “almost over.”
Twenty soldiers were wounded on Saturday in a sign troops were pushing hard to end the battle, Brawner said.
He said 40 militants remained in the conflict area including leaders Isnilon Hapilon, who is on America’s list of most wanted terrorists with a $5 million bounty, and Omarkhayam Maute, whose group had pledged allegiance to Daesh.
There were also 100 civilians in the zone including hostages and families of the militants, he added.
“Women and children are now forced to fight together with the Maute-ISIS fighters. These are desperate measures the Maute-ISIS are doing. This is their last defensive stand,” Brawner said.
Duterte on Thursday warned against celebrating the eventual liberation of Marawi, citing the deaths and devastation there.
“When we leave Marawi, we go quietly. We do not want to show any kind of celebration or happiness,” he said.


‘Key issues unresolved’, UN chief warns climate talks

Updated 41 min 29 sec ago
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‘Key issues unresolved’, UN chief warns climate talks

KATOWICE, Poland: “Key political issues” deadlocking UN climate talks “remain unresolved,” UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres warned Wednesday after an unscheduled stop at the troubled negotiations in Poland.
The fight against climate change is a “matter of life and death today,” he told ministers and delegates at the 195-nation UN forum tasked with beating back the threat of global warming, barely 48 hours before the meet in the coal town of Katowice was set to adjourn.
The two-week talks are tasked with breathing life into the 2015 Paris Agreement, which vows to cap global warming at “well under” two degrees Celsius (3.6 degrees Fahrenheit) and funnel hundreds of billions of dollars to poor countries already feeling the sting of deadly storms, heatwaves and droughts made worse by climate change.
But efforts to elaborate a “rule book” for the Paris pact and to boost the carbon-cutting pledges of all nations have run aground, even as a barrage of scientific reports have warned that only immediate and radical measures can avert catastrophic climate impacts.
“The eyes of the world are upon us,” said Guterres, who had not planned to return to the talks after addressing the opening plenary 10 days ago.
“To waste this opportunity would compromise our last best chance to stop runaway climate change,” he said.
“It would not only be immoral, it would be suicidal.”
A major report called for by the UN climate body concluded in October that Earth’s rise in temperature must be capped even lower — at 1.5C — to avoid the danger of runaway warming.
But several countries at the talks, led by the United States and Saudi Arabia, have blocked efforts to endorse the report, which many developing countries see as essential.
“The IPCC report on 1.5C is the basis for all future action, on what we need to do,” Vanuatu Foreign Minister Ralph Regenvanu told AFP.
Endorsing the report’s findings at the conclusion of the UN forum “is a red line issue for us.”