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Armed Forces to probe war crimes in Marawi

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MANILA, November 20 -- The Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) on Friday said it was committed to uphold international humanitarian law and respect for human rights and would investigate allegations that troops tortured and mistreated civilians during the five-month siege of Marawi City.

AFP spokesperson Maj. Gen. Restituto Padilla was reacting to an Amnesty International report that documented violations of humanitarian law, some amounting to war crimes, during the fighting between Philippine government troops and pro-Islamic State (IS) militants.

The human rights group said the militants committed unlawful killings, hostage-taking, pillage and mistreatment of captives. They allegedly used child soldiers and murdered civilians, which is a war crime, with some of their targets said to have been singled out because they were Christians.

Government forces, on the other hand, allegedly tortured and mistreated detainees and looted, Amnesty said in its report.

"We will investigate and discipline those found guilty of violating policies and regulations, which includes IHL (international humanitarian law) and HR (human rights)," Padilla told reporters in Malacanang.

Padilla said the military would respond more fully to the Amnesty report after going through it.

He said AFP chief of staff Gen. Rey Leonardo Guerrero had reminded the troops to respect people's rights and warned that the military"will not tolerate nor condone misdeeds of our soldiers to include violations of [international humanitarian law] and human rights."

Guerrero, who was head of the Eastern Mindanao Command, which does not cover Marawi, took over as chief of staff from Gen. Eduardo Ano after the government declared victory over the pro-IS fighters last month.

The siege of Marawi raged from May 23 until the government declared it over on October 23.

Reports said more than 1,100 combatants and civilians were killed, including more than 900 Filipino and foreign militants. Over half a million people were displaced by the prolonged and widespread fighting that reduced much of the Islamic city to rubble.

Amnesty said it interviewed 48 survivors and witnesses, and many described how the militants regularly targeted and killed civilians.

Multiple witnesses described 10 incidents in which militants killed at least 25 civilians by shooting them or slitting their throats. Most were targeted because they were Christians, and some were killed as they attempted to flee, it said. MNY/RSP/QT)
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