The decapitated bodies of five civilians have been found in a Philippine city occupied by Islamist rebels, the military said on Wednesday, warning the number of residents killed by rebel “atrocities” could rise sharply as troops retake more ground.
The discovery of the five victims among 17 other bodies retrieved would be the first evidence that civilians trapped in besieged Marawi City have been decapitated during the five-week stand by militants loyal to the Islamic State group, as some who escaped the city have previously reported.
Lieutenant Colonel Emmanuel Garcia of the Western Mindanao Command said in a text message to reporters the five decapitated were found with the other 17 civilians killed by militants.
It was not clear when the bodies were found. A civilian rescue worker, Abdul Azis Lomondot, told Reuters earlier there were body parts found on Wednesday, but there was “no proof of beheading”.
The battle for Marawi entered its 36th day on Wednesday, with intense gunfights and bombing in the heart of the town and black-clad fighters seen from afar running between buildings as explosions rang out. Marawi is on southern Mindanao island.