TEN soldiers have been killed in a government air strike in the city of Marawi in the Philippines.
Eight soldiers were also wounded in the ‘friendly fire’ incident on Wednesday when two air force SF-260 close air support planes dropped bombs on a target in the heart of the city.
‘Yesterday we had a tragedy that involved our troops. A group of our military, army men, were hit by our own airstrike. We lost men, 10 killed and eight wounded,’ Defence Secretary Delfin Lorenzana told reporters.
Since May 23, militants allied to Islamic State have engaged in street battles with the army leaving more than 100 people dead.
It was sparked by the attempted capture of a top militant leader – Isnilon Hapilon – a Filipino militant on the US’s list of most-wanted terror suspects.
The military was carrying out air strikes on locations where it believes Isnilon Hapilon, the so-called ‘emir’ of Islamic State and point man for its operations in the Philippines, is hiding.
Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte declared martial law on southern Mindanao island, where Marawi City is located, last week.
The Philippines military has since been using armed forces and helicopter airstrikes to try and drive the militants out.
Most of the civilians have left Marawi, while about 2,000 remain trapped.
Lorenzana told reporters on Thursday that among the militants that have been killed there were fighters from at least five other nationalities including Saudi, Yemeni and Chechen.
The deaths of the soldiers takes the number of security forces killed to 38, with 19 civilians and 120 rebel fighters killed in the battles in Marawi over the past nine days.
President Duterte is concerned radical ideology is spreading in the southern Philippines and it could become a haven for militants from Southeast Asia and beyond.