Painful homecoming in battle-torn Marawi
AFTER fleeing for their lives nearly a year ago, residents of the battle-scarred Philippine city of Marawi were allowed back Sunday for the first time — to dig through the rubble that was once their homes.
Swathes of the southern city were destroyed in five months of house-to-house fighting between troops and jihadists loyal to the Islamic State group that killed nearly 1,200.
Tearful residents dug charred furniture and broken toys from the ruins, which still conceals unexploded bombs dropped during the battles that broke out in May 2017.
“I cried in anger, pain,” Samsida Mangcol, 44, told AFP of the moment she saw what was left of her bridal boutique, which now has “I love ISIS” spray-painted across one its walls.
Marawi on Mindanao island, the principal Islamic city in the mainly Catholic Philippines, was besieged by hundreds of local and foreign gunmen waving black IS flags who attacked it in what authorities said was an attempt to establish a Southeast Asian base.
Over the course of the next month groups of residents will be allowed to return for up to three days each, to view their old homes and salvage what they can before rebuilding starts.
On Sunday some 7,000 people walked forlornly through streets littered with rubble, twisted metal and the skeletons of bullet-riddled cars.
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