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11 dead from Philippine fighting given Christian burial

Unidentified remains include those of a young girl, even as death toll expected to mount

11 dead from Philippine fighting given Christian burial

Coffins are seen here on the back of a truck as officials of Iligan City in the southern Philippines facilitate the burial on June 15 of 11 unidentified bodies of victims of the ongoing fighting in the nearby city of Marawi. (Photo by Michael Sainsbury)


Michael Sainsbury and Joe Torres, Iligan

June 15, 2017

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The deadly human cost of the siege of the southern Philippine city of Marawi came under the spotlight as the unidentified remains of 11 people, including a young girl, were buried in a mass grave on June 15.

The decomposing bodies were recovered by security forces from the city of Marawi and were interred at Dalipuga public cemetery on the edge of the neighboring city of Iligan.

The burials, conducted by Protestant pastor Danny Lucia, came as fighting in Marawi continued with journalist Adam Harvey of the Australian Broadcasting Corporation catching a sniper's bullet in his neck.

Harvey, who was in the "safe zone" of the city escaped serious injury but the incident underscored the situation has yet to be brought under control by the military.

Members of the media and humanitarian groups, including one led by a leftist congressman, were blocked from entering the city on June 15.

Jose Pantoja, information officer of Iligan City — a predominantly Christian city — said they are "ready to facilitate the burial of unidentified bodies that will be recovered from Marawi."

He said 20 bodies were earlier recovered but nine were already identified and claimed by family members.

Pantoja said DNA samples have been taken from the bodies for future reference if family members look for missing loved ones.

Residents who escaped the fighting told that "many dead bodies" were seen on the streets of Marawi and could not be retrieved due to heavy fighting.

The bodies buried June 15 arrived on a truck in rough-hewn wooden caskets and were then placed in a traditional stacked grave and bricked in by workers following the Christian ceremony.

It remains unclear whether the victims were Christian or Muslim in what is the Philippines only Muslim-majority city.

On May 25, after two days of assaults by Philippine troops, the bodies of 20 civilians were brought to a funeral home in Iligan. 

At least 200 people — 138 militant gunmen and 58 military personnel — have been confirmed dead by the government.

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