Philippine church says priest, churchgoers taken hostage

He declared martial law for 60 days in Mindanao, home to 22 million people, and vowed to be "harsh".

But Duterte said he would not allow abuses and law-abiding citizens had nothing to fear. "And because there's people that are on the ground I think maybe in the long term, given the heavy handed nature of the Duterte Administration, there will be a lot of casualties", said Maxfield Brown, business intelligence associate at the consultancy Dezan Shira & Associates in Manila.

Duterte said a local police chief was stopped at a militant checkpoint and beheaded, and added that he may declare martial law nationwide if he believes the group has taken a foothold.

Duterte added, "I cannot gamble with ISIS because they are everywhere, and you know what is happening or you must be very aware of what happened in the Middle East".

"People have been walking for hours to try to escape the violence and get out of a city that was once the most peaceful in southern Philippines", Alindogan said.

The militants who triggered the martial law are also threatening to kill a priest and other hostages, the Catholic Church said Wednesday.

The Philippines foreign ministry said earlier in a statement that it had no comment on news reports about the leaked transcript.

In past public comments, it had been hard to discern if Trump was aware of what Duterte was doing, besides that the Philippines president had a hardline stance on drug use.

Solutions have eluded previous governments, and it is not clear that President Duterte's reliance on martial law will prove any more successful, our correspondent says.

They want to take shelter from the ongoing fighting between state troops and elements of the Islamic militant Maute Group who have taken hold of some parts of the city.

What is troubling the security apparatus is that radical elements of another Islamic State-linked group, Abu Sayyaf, appear to be collaborating with Maute, far from its island strongholds of Basilan, Jolo and Tawi Tawi, all off Mindanao. He is a commander of the Abu Sayyaf militant group and was wounded by a military airstrike in January.

"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.

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

Stunned White House officials raced to reassure Americans that the United States still cares about human rights after Donald Trump invited Philippines President Rodrigo Duterte-who has overseen thousands of extrajudicial killings in his brutal war on drugs-to visit the White House.

"We will just try to hold the ground tonight so that we can bring in more troops maybe tonight and tomorrow morning", he said.

Abu Sayyaf may have been planning violence to get attention from Islamic State of Iraq and Syria, or ISIS, said Antonio Contreras, political scientist at De La Salle University in the Philippine.

"[Members] of Maute group entered the jail compound, disarmed and tied up the 12 jail officers of the facility, destroyed the jail's padlocks, and let all the inmates out from their cells", read the report relayed to him by BJMP Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao Regional Director Mamerto Delloro Jr.

The military's Western Mindanao Command spokesperson, Capt. Joan Petinglay, said only 15 Maute gunmen headed by Hapilon were in the city. We have two submarines - the best in the world - we have two nuclear submarines - not that we want to use them at all, ' Trump said.

Last month, troops backed by airstrikes killed dozens of Maute militants and captured their jungle camp near Lanao del Sur's Piagapo town.

Duterte, a native of Mindanao, canceled a meeting set for Wednesday with Russian Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev.

  • Leroy Wright