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Abu Dhabi, UAESunday 23 September 2018

Australia offers to train Philippine troops in ISIL fight

Philippine forces have been besieging militants in the southern city of Marawi for almost 100 days

Smoke rises from houses as battles continue in Marawi on the southern island of Mindanao on August 28, 2017. Soldiers killed 10 suspected militants on August 28 as they attempted to infiltrate by boat. Ferdinand Cabrera / AFP
Smoke rises from houses as battles continue in Marawi on the southern island of Mindanao on August 28, 2017. Soldiers killed 10 suspected militants on August 28 as they attempted to infiltrate by boat. Ferdinand Cabrera / AFP

Australia on Tuesday offered to help train the Philippines military to tackle ISIL militants terrorising parts of the country, calling the threat "deeply concerning".

Philippine forces have been besieging militants in the southern city of Marawi for almost 100 days. But the gunmen, flying ISIL's black flag, have defied military assaults including air strikes and artillery barrages.

Ten suspected militants were killed in Marawi on Monday as they attempted to infiltrate the city partly occupied by gunmen loyal to ISIL.

Australia, which has an extensive defence co-operation programme with Manila, has already deployed two high-tech AP-3C Orion aircraft for surveillance, and is keen to provide further help.

Foreign minister Julie Bishop said she recently spoke to Philippine president Rodrigo Duterte who wanted to bolster resources for his armed forces.

"We would be ready to support the Philippines in the same way we are supporting Iraq in advising, assisting and training," she said.

"We indicated what we have been doing in Iraq. I went through with the president in some detail the support we have given in Iraq, that does not include troops on the ground. That is advising and assisting."

Video: Fighting continues in Philippine city of Marawi

Australia is part of the coalition fighting ISIL in Iraq and Syria, with 780 defence personnel based in the Middle East.

Ms Bishop said it was "deeply concerning" for the entire Asian region that ISIL had a presence in the southern Philippines, with the US, Malaysia and Indonesia also offering support.

Before dawn on Monday 10 militants aboard two motorboats were caught by soldiers trying to sneak into the lakeside city to reinforce gunmen already there, said regional military chief Lt Gen Carlito Galvez.

The bodies of five dead men were recovered from one motorboat while the other boat, with five aboard, was sunk, Gen Galvez said.

"Let this be a warning to those who have the intention to escape and to enter [Marawi], our troops are ready for you. We will definitely get you," he added.

Mr Duterte declared martial law across Mindanao island, home to 20 million people, on May 23 immediately after fighters flying the ISIL flag rampaged through Marawi.

Their assault on the city ignited an unprecedented urban war, which Mr Duterte has warned is part of an ISIL campaign to establish a base in Mindanao.

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