Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte (Photo: EPA/VNA)

Hanoi (VNA) – Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte on June 20 apologised for the military offensive that has left the southern Marawi city in ruins.  

Speaking at an evacuation centre near Marawi, Duterte added that US-backed air raids will be continued and stressed the need to expel gunmen who pledged loyalty to the self-claimed Islamic State (IS) in the country.

The statement came when the conflict in Marawi has lasted for five weeks and shows no sign of ending soon. Since the fight between IS gunmen and government forces erupted on May 23, nearly 370 people were killed, with at least 62 soldiers, three police officers and 26 civilians dying in fighting.

About 258 militants were killed, including foreign gunmen from Chechnya, Malaysia and Libya. Many leaders of the militants are believed to hide in Marawi city.

Philippine president spokesman Ernesto Abella on June 20 said it is unlikely that Marawi will become a centre of IS gunmen in the region, as Philippine army has prevented the militants from establishing their own province in the city.

The same day, the spokesman of Indonesia’s Foreign Ministry Arrmanatha Nasir stated that foreign ministers and security authorities of Indonesia, Malaysia and the Philippines will meet on June 22 to discuss the conflict in southern Philippines and its impact on the region.

Officials will discuss trilateral cooperation to stop violence in Marawi city. The three countries are expected to propose a joint counter-terrorism plan, including relevant programmes on border control and law enforcement.

The meeting, which was suggested by Indonesian Foreign Minister Retno Marsudi, is scheduled to be held in Philippine capital city of Manila.-VNA