Australia defense minister thanks crew of spy planes in Marawi mission
CLARK FREEPORT — Australian defense minister Marise Payne met with the crew of AP-3C Orion of the Australian Defense Force on Monday to thank them for their participation in the five-month long siege in Marawi City.
“I want to thank the men and women of the Australian Defense Force who have been part of Australia’s engagement when the Orions came to support in relation to activities in Marawi,” she told reporters in a short message after the meeting.
Australia had pledged to send two of its surveillance planes to help in the Marawi crisis nearly a month after fighting between government troops and ISIS-linked terrorists started on May 23.
The siege ended exactly five months later after Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana declared also on Monday that it would terminate all combat operations in the city.
“I wanna acknowledge the very real contribution of that our ability to work with the Philippine government and the Armed Forces of the Philippines in terms of effective regional engagement. Australia and the Philippines have an extremely long shared regional and military history…Our engagement here, the P3s, surveillance is an important extension of that, ” Payne said.
An official who requested anonymity said the Australian spy planes flew about four times a week and four to six hours a day during their mission in Marawi City.
The Australian forces provided imagery on the ground to identify positions of people, vehicles and everything else that was going on in the battle zone.
President Rodrigo Duterte declared the liberation of Marawi on Tuesday last week, a day after the top leaders of the ISIS-inspired Maute Group, Isnilon Hapilon and Omar Maute, were killed by government forces.
The Marawi siege is bloodiest and longest urban warfare in Philippine history. Official death toll on Sunday said 1,131 were killed — 919 terrorists and 165 soldiers and policemen.
Payne is in the country for the Asean regional security forum, which also include allied countries like Australia.
She said this was “an opportunity to exchange views on key security issues that challenge” them with everyday, as well as the challenges posed by North Korea and other terrorist activities in the region. /je
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