Martial law in southern Philippines could last a year: Duterte

The two leaders also talked about North Korea and China's potential influence, the New York Times said, quoting parts of a Philippine transcript of the April 29 call that was circulated on Tuesday, under a "confidential" cover sheet, by the Americas division of the Philippine Department of Foreign Affairs.

Many Filipinos are particularly sensitive about martial law, as the late Philippine dictator Ferdinand Marcos used it to detain and torture opponents from 1973 until 1981.

According to the military, the Maute group was formed by the Maute family led by brothers Omar and Abdullah Maute, former members of the Moro Islamic Liberation Front.

He said instating the law would "suppress lawless violence and rebellion and for public safety".

Duterte's martial law declaration will help government forces carry out searches and arrests and detain rebel suspects more quickly, Lorenzana said.

Two soldiers and one police officer were killed in the firefight in the city of Marawi, 816km south of Manila, while 12 government forces were wounded, Defence Secretary Delfin Lorenzana said.

A photograph from one resident showed a black flag flying in Marawi that looked similar to that of Islamic State.

Brigadier General Rolando Bautista, commander of the Philippines' First Infantry Division, said security forces were trying to locate the militants.

The Abu Sayyaf, based on the most southern islands of Mindanao, has kidnapped hundreds of Filipinos and foreigners since the early 1990s to extract ransoms. "We have a lot of firepower, more than he has, times 20 - but we don't want to use it", the United States leader said, citing "two nuclear submarines" the Pentagon sent to the area last month. His capture is worth a reward of up to US$5 million (S$6.95 million) for his capture.

The Jakarta-based Institute for Policy Analysis of Conflict said a year ago that deepening cooperation among the Maute gang, the Abu Sayyaf and other pro-IS groups meant more deadly violence was "a matter of when, not if".

The Maute group has engaged in repeated deadly battles with the military over the past year in rural areas around Marawi.

Both Abu Sayyaf and Maute have been blamed for bombings, attacks against government forces, and kidnappings in the Philippines.

"We will conduct house-to-house clearing and do everything to remove the threat there".

Abella said the declaration that placed Mindanao under martial law was "good for 60 days" but Duterte said this depends on the developments and that "if it would take a year to do it, then we'll do it".

"But if there will be loss of lives needlessly, and without reason, just to kill, kill, and kill, I will declare martial law in Mindanao".

  • Zachary Reyes