Sports chief alarmed as Marawi kids view IS fighters as ‘heroes’

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Some internally displaced children in war-torn Marawi City consider fighters of the international terror group Islamic (IS) as “heroes,” an official said on Thursday.

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In a news conference in Malacañang, Philippine Sports Commission (PSC) chairman William Ramirez said his coaches learned about this when the commission held the “Children’s Games for Peace” program in Iligan City last week.

“At the end of the activities, we found out that the children were happy and they started playing with Christians also. But there was one observation that we had: that most of our Filipino children consider other people as heroes – sports heroes, military heroes,” Ramirez told reporters.

“But here – we don’t have research, this is not scientific – but it was written by our coaches when we had our Children’s Game for Peace, that some, if not many of these Marawi bakwit children, they consider [IS] as their heroes,” he added.

Bakwit is shorthand for evacuees.

To counter this, the PSC plans to visit Marawi children and reinforce “early peace-making” through sports.

“We were alarmed so I told our sports psychologists to take note of that…we came up with some resolution to teach early peace-making, early playing, early activities among the children,” Ramirez said.

The ongoing armed conflict in Marawi City enters its 65th day as security forces continue to stage offensives against the IS-linked Maute terror group that stormed the war-torn city on May 23.

In the same news conference, Palace spokesman Ernesto Abella said the death toll in the Marawi offensive had risen to 625 as of July 26.

The fatalities included 469 Islamist gunmen, 45 civilians, and 111 government troops.

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