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Airstrikes in Marawi as Philippines troops try to retake city
Video provided by AFP
Newslook

MARAWI, Philippines — At a crowded center for refugees fleeing the fighting that has ravaged this city, Merlinda Obedencio never lets her most valuable possession out of sight: a blue cellphone.

It is the only link she has to her husband and three of their six children being held by Islamic State-linked extremists.

Obedencio’s husband, Raul, and their children were captured by the local Maute extremist group during a siege that started May 23 and has left almost 600 dead.

Almost 400,000 people have been displaced by the fighting in Marawi, a city on the southern island of Mindanao, according to the Philippine military. And like Obedencio, most face an uncertain future in a region turned upside down by extremist violence.

The Islamic State, also known as ISIS, views the drawn-out battle as a major win at a time when it is being driven out of its base in Iraq and Syria, bringing greater attention to the Philippines and Southeast Asia as a new beachhead for extremists.

“This is what I consider the first significant example of how foreign fighters from the Syria/Iraq battle space can be brought to bear in another part of the world,” said Thomas Sanderson, director of the Transnational Threats Project at the Center for Strategic and International Studies in Washington, D.C.

After weeks of not knowing whether her…