By Nicola Smith

Civilians trapped by Isis-affiliated groups in the besieged southern Philippine city of Marawi are being forced to fight, loot and become sex slaves to militants, the Philippine Army claimed.

Jo-Ar Herrera, a military spokesman, said that according to recent escapees, hostages inside Marawi were being forced to convert to Islam, carry wounded fighters and marry terrorists from the Maute group who invaded the city last month.

"So they are being forced to be sex slaves, forced to destroy the dignity of these women," he said. "This is what is happening inside, this is very evident... these are evil personalities."

Advertisement

Most of Marawi's 200,000 citizens have fled the Muslim-majority city since it was attacked on May 23 by the local Maute and Abu Sayyaf groups, which both pledge loyalty to Isis (Islamic State).

Despite heavy aerial bombardment, which has destroyed much of the city centre, the militants have held off the army for five weeks, using snipers and rocket-propelled grenades.

Their combat capability, access to heavy weapons and the presence of foreign fighters has raised fears that the siege of the city is part of a campaign for Isil to gain a foothold in south-east Asia.

In an interview with the Daily Telegraph, Hussein Datuharun, a city official, backed the claims of forced recruitment.

"They [the militants] put checkpoints all over the city and then they recruit only men, saying 'you join our group or we will kill you'," he said.