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ICC Note: Victims of the five-month long Marawi siege last May share stories of their survival and unspeakable horrors they witnessed during the occupation of IS-linked terrorist group. Christians were targeted and killed. More than 360,000 were forced out from their homes. Little progress has been made so far to rebuild the city.

03/20/2018 Philippines (Independent) – It was late at night when armed men banged at 10-year-old Aisah’s home and told her family the bombing would soon begin.

Her terrified parents rounded up their seven children, grabbed the few belongings they could carry, and fled.

The family passed burning buildings and bodies in the street as they joined thousands of people streaming out of the southern Philippine city of Marawi, where the sound of gunfire filled the air.

Isis-linked fighters had seized control of the city, and it would be five months before their bloody siege was ended by government troops.

Nearly 360,000 people fled and took refuge in neighbouring villages as the Philippine army began bombarding the Islamic militia in May last year.

Aisah* was one of around 160,000 children evacuated, walking for hours on bare feet with her family to reach the safety of Taraka, a town 15 miles away.

On the journey she saw Isis fighters burning down schools and homes, and hunting down people who could not speak Arabic. The constant sound of gunfire left her shaking with fear.

“I was scared because I heard the blasts of the gun,” she said. “While we were walking I was really scared of the gunshots. And the night before, they had burned down different houses.

“While we were walking, we saw a Christian shot dead on the other road.”

Her mother Vilma*, a fruit seller who was seven-months pregnant when the conflict erupted, said: “The fighters were shooting. They also burnt the school down. They were killing the Christians. They would kill any people who could not speak Arabic.

“While walking to Taraka, my stomach was aching because I was pregnant. I could not endure it any longer. I felt like I was going to give birth. I was operated in the hospital… But my baby had died inside my stomach.”

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For interviews with Gina Goh, ICC’s Regional Manager, please contact Olivia Miller, Communications Coordinator: [email protected]