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8 Jun, 2017 12:44

‘We lost everything’: Civilians fleeing ISIS-besieged Philippines city talk to RT

Civilians fleeing the Philippine city of Marawi told RT they‘ve lost everything, after Islamic State-linked militants besieged their homes earlier in May. Those who escaped the violence are now in evacuation centers, desperately searching for their families.

RT’s Charlotte Dubenskij visited an evacuation center near Marawi where hundreds of people live after being displaced.

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“It’s very hard for us to cry because we lost everything, like our house was burnt and everything was lost. We don't have clothes, we have nothing to eat,” one woman told Dubenskij.

The woman is said to have shared a house with seven families, but now all of them are homeless.

Another Marawi resident is desperately searching for his family members, whom he was separated from during the ongoing fighting in the besieged city.

“I cry every day. I can't move on. When the terrorists came I was with my family but we were separated. And now I’m still looking for them,” he said.

Since mid-May, armed forces have been clashing with Maute fighters linked to Islamic State (IS, formerly ISIS/ISIL) who have taken over large parts of Marawi on the island of Mindanao. The majority of Marawi’s 200,000 residents managed to flee the city.

The fighting on Mindanao erupted following a raid on the alleged hideout of Isnilon Hapilon, a head of Abu Sayyaf jihadist militants, who have pledged allegiance to IS.

READ MORE: Gunmen take priest, churchgoers hostage in Philippines, vow to kill captives

On Tuesday, Brig. Gen. Restituto Padilla, spokesperson for the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP), told local media that the death toll in the Marawi clashes had exceeded 200 people. 

Those killed include 134 militants, 38 government troops and 30 civilians, Padilla said, adding that some 1,545 civilians remain trapped in the city.

"We feel the pain, we feel the hurt of every member, of every citizen of Marawi, but let us remember we did not start this. It was the armed group that entered the city to wreak havoc on it," Padilla added.

Earlier on Tuesday, a video was obtained by AP showing the militants plotting an attack. Hapilon was one of the fighters featured in the footage.  

According to AFP chief of staff Eduardo Ano, the video proved that the militants are trying to set up an Islamist enclave or caliphate.

"That video actually is a clear proof that the group of Maute, ISIS, has this intention of not only rebellion but actually dismembering a portion of the Philippine territory by occupying the whole of Marawi City and establishing their own Islamic State or government," Ano said.