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Philippines' Duterte now says "no" to bombing mosques

PHILIPPINES DUTERTE NOW SAYS NO TO BOMBING MOSQUES

President Rodrigo Duterte on Friday withdrew his consent to the military that allowed them to bomb mosques in Marawi City.

The President told soldiers the government has to be conscious of the cultural and ideological implications of bombing mosques in the fight against the Maute terrorists in the south.

"We cannot destroy the mosque.... It will breed an unending hatred," Rappler quoted Duterte as saying in his speech, Friday, at the Eastern Mindanao Command in Davao City, as Muslims celebrated Eid'l Adha.

He asked: "What will it give us in terms of goodwill?" Adding that bombing the Muslims' place of worship would not help the cause.

The armed conflict between the government and the Daesh-linked terror group in Marawi City, prompted President Duterte to declare a 60-day martial law in Mindanao which was eventually given a five-month extension until the year's end, Dec. 31.

Speaking before hundreds of soldiers Friday in Davao, Duterte revealed that he had considered lifting the martial law. However, with the current situation, according to him, they will just have to continue.

The President said he feared a spillover of the Marawi crisis because of the sighting of the armed men in Buldon, a Maguindanao town near Lanao del Sur.

"I was thinking that we could, you know, lift it (martial law) earlier. But the way it looks like (the conflict) has already spilled over into the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao," he added.

Last Wednesday, Duterte gave the military a free hand to rid Marawi of the remaining terrorists who are still occupying some concrete houses, buildings, and mosques along with their hostages.

The armed conflict in Marawi city entered its 104th day on Saturday, where fighting was limited to a much smaller area but soldiers had a hard time clearing out buildings as the structures are laden with booby traps and improvised explosive devices (IED).

The military said three soldiers were killed and 52 others were wounded when booby traps and IEDs planted by the terrorists went off in different locations on the eve of Eid'l Adha in Marawi.

Five Maute fighters were also killed at the battle for the Banggolo Bridge (Bayabao Bridge).

The fresh casualties brought to 136 the number of deaths incurred by the government since the fighting with Daesh-linked terrorists started.

Authorities say 617 enemy fighters have also died along with 45 civilians. As many as 600 soldiers were wounded and 300 people are still being held by the militants in mosques.

The military said it is now implementing a final push in its fight against the Maute and Abu Sayyaf groups to "once and for all" crush the Daesh-linked terrorists.

The clashes have forced more than 200,000 out of Marawi City and thousands more from nearby areas. The crisis has also destroyed much of the once bustling urban center.

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