Fighting in southern Philippine city displaces nearly 400,000 people

Vastavam web:  Islamist militants occupying a southern Philippine city have forced nearly 400,000 people in the wider area to flee their homes, officials said today, while warning of disease outbreaks and psychological trauma among refugees.The city of Marawi, considered the Muslim capital of the largely Catholic Philippines, has been reduced to a ghost town after self-styled followers of the Islamic State movement launched an assault on the city on May 23.The fighting has left over 400 people dead, while the Maute fighters still control parts of the city, using snipers and improvised explosive devices to slow the military’s advance.

Liza Mazo, the regional civil defence director, said it was not just the city’s residents leaving the area but also people living in the surrounding communities. Mazo said that relief officials have struggled to deal with outbreaks of illness at the evacuation centrers as government forces continue to launch air strikes and artillery barrages against the militants.”There are alarming cases of skin diseases and gastroenteritis. We want to control the outbreak, not just in the evacuation center but even the home-based (refugees),” she said. President Rodrigo Duterte, who declared martial law over the southern Philippines to deal with the crisis, vowed on Saturday that government forces would crush the extremists.”We will not go out there (Marawi) until the last terrorist is executed,” he said in a speech to government workers.At one point in his speech, to demonstrate his seriousness, he lifted his shirt to reveal a holstered pistol.