The RAAF will be flying its advanced intelligence-gathering planes over the Philippines to help the country’s military fight the rise of pro-Islamic State militants.
The Filipino military has been fighting the militants on the southern island of Mindanao for five weeks in a battle that has killed at least 300 people and displaced thousands of others.
According to Fairfax Media, defence minister Marise Payne said Australia will fly two of its P-3 Orion aircraft over the region, a move which she also said would strengthen Australia’s own security.
“The regional threat from terrorism, in particular from Daesh [Islamic State] and foreign fighters, is a direct threat to Australia and our interests,” Payne told Fairfax.
The Orion planes can carry up to 12 personnel and are used for taking aerial images, gather up signals intelligence such as mobile phone conversations, and other intelligence collection methods.
There are a number of pro-Islamic State groups fighting the local military in the region, one of which, the Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters (BIFF) took control of a town and seized a school on Wednesday.
Three hundred armed militants stormed the school and held students captive in Pigcawayan, 190km south of Marawi City where militants have also taken control but later withdrew.
Earlier in the week, president of the Philippines Rodrigo Duterte ordered the military to bomb rebel positions and ground troops in Marawi City. The aggressive action was made in the hope it will end the fighting before the weekend Eid festival, after which local authorities are concerned the fighting could further intensify.
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