More than a week after ISIS-linked militants seized Marawi, the Philippine military suffered a significant blow in its bid to retake the southern city: The country’s defense secretary, Delfin Lorenzana, announced Thursday that an errant airstrike killed at least 10 of the military’s own soldiers and injured seven others.
“A group of our military army men were hit by our own airstrikes,” Lorenzana said in a text message, according to The New York Times. “The coordination was not properly done so we hit our own people.”
Reuters reports the incident occurred “during the first offensive deployment of fixed-wing aircraft in the operation” against militants of the Maute Group, who have pledged their loyalty to the Islamic State. The militants have held parts of the city since a military raid went awry on May 23.
Since the Philippine government lost control of the city, at least 39 soldiers, 19 civilians and some 120 militants, several of whom were foreign fighters, have been killed in the fighting there, according to the news service. An unknown number of civilians — including a Catholic priest and several churchgoers — have also been taken hostage in the city of 200,000.
Shortly after the situation in Marawi descended into chaos, Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte declared martial law on Mindanao, the island where the city lies, suggesting he might soon broaden that emergency status nationwide.
“If I think you should die, you will die. If you fight us, you will die. If there’s an open defiance, you will die. And if it means many people dying, so be it,” Duterte said at a news conference last week, after returning from an abbreviated diplomatic visit to Russia. “That’s how it is.”
“Since the Philippine government announced martial law, there have been relentless air strikes, ‘surgical air strikes,’ as the Philippine military described it,” Al Jazeera reported from the outskirts of Marawi City. “There have been organisations and civilians here who have been asking the government to stop the air strikes, simply because of the danger they pose for civilians.”
CNN notes that Brig. Gen. Restituto Padilla, said Thursday that the Philippine military does not intend to halt airstrikes after the incident, citing a need to combat enemy snipers in the city.