Duterte imposes martial law in south

The Maute group of Philippines militants, which occupied and torched a Roman Catholic church, a jail and two schools in Marawi city of Mindanao island, has abducted residents, including a priest and a college professor, the media reported on Wednesday.

The troops tried to contain the fighting in specific areas but the militants attempted to conduct diversionary tactics in other areas in Marawi City to ease off the pressure launched by the military forces against Abu Sayyaf leader Isnilon Hapilon, the alleged ISIS-inspired leader being protected by the Maute Group, Galvez added.

"They have threatened to kill the hostages if the government forces unleashed against them are not recalled", said Father Socrates Villegas, president of Catholic Bishops Conference of the Philippines.

He assured that while the operations of the government troops against the members of the said rebel group are ongoing, the security forces are in full control of the situation.

Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte said on Wednesday he will deal harshly with terrorism and that martial law on the island of Mindanao would remain in place for a year if necessary.

Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana said troops raided the hideout of a top terrorist suspect in southern Marawi city, sparking a gunbattle that prompted the militants to call for reinforcements. But human rights groups have expressed fears that martial law powers could further embolden Duterte, whom they have accused of allowing extrajudicial killings of thousands of people in his crackdown on illegal drugs.

Last year, the group sought recognition from the Islamic State, pledging allegiance and calling itself as the IS-Ranao.

The Maute and Abu Sayyaf have proved fierce opponents for the military.

Troops sealed off major entry and exit points to prevent Hapilon from escaping, military chief of staff Gen Eduardo Ano said in Moscow.

The US and other Western governments also warned this month that terrorists were planning to kidnap foreigners in tourist hotspots in the western and central Philippines, adding to longstanding advisories of abduction threats in Mindanao.

According to Rappler, people in the Philippines, and all over the world, began to "pray for Marawi" when fires began to break out thanks to the clash between the military and the Maute Group.

Steven Rood, of the Asia Foundation, said that there are several restrictions under the country's current post-dictatorship constitution. "The Mautes are embedded in the population".

Based in Lanao del Sur, the Mindanao province which includes Marawi, the Maute surfaced around 2013 with a bombing of a nightclub in Cagayan de Oro, a mainly Christian city in a neighbouring province, which killed six people.

Military intelligence said the Maute brothers also had links to two of the region's most unsafe militants - Indonesian Ustadz Sanusi and Malaysian bomb maker Zulkifli bin Hir, alias Marwan.

  • Leroy Wright