Duterte declares martial law in Philippines amid terror clashes

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

Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte warned Wednesday that he'll be harsh in enforcing martial law in his country's south as he abruptly left Moscow to deal with a crisis at home sparked by a Muslim extremist siege on a city, where militants burned buildings overnight and are feared to have taken hostages.

Herrera and other military officials said Hapilon was the target of the operation, which took place in the residential area of Basak, a suburb of about 1,700 people in the mainly Muslim southern city of Marawi.

The incident forced President Rodrigo Duterte to cut short in his official visit to Russian Federation and declared Martial Law.

Philippines President Rodrigo Duterte, the authoritarian leader accused of overseeing death squads that have killed thousands, joked about government soldiers committing rape during martial law, Reuters reported. "They don't shoot civilians, they were yelling using a megaphone urging us to join ISIS and jihad".

Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte salutes the honor guards upon arrival from Russian Federation at the Ninoy Aquino International airport in Paranaque, Metro Manila, Philippines May 24, 2017. If you rape three (women), I will say that I did it.

The Russian news agency Tass quoted officials saying Duterte told Putin he was counting on Russia to supply weapons to counter terrorism in the Philippines.

"We encourage all police officers and military personnel to study this list of Dos and Don'ts and also the Memorandum released by the DND, and to strictly comply to reduce the possibility of any misdemeanor or breach of citizen's rights happening during this time of conflict", it said.

For hours, rooftop snipers held back troops from entering the town of 200,000 people.

Five soldiers and one policemen died in the clashes, while 13 gunmen were killed, according to the military.

As authorities tried to gain more control over the city, disturbing details have emerged. He added that he was willing to expand the state of martial law nationwide should the jihadists expand their reach.

Mindanao makes up roughly one-third of the country and is home to 20 million people.

The focus of the raid was about 15 militants belonging to the Maute group, which has pledged allegiance to Islamic State in the Middle East.

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.

"Their refusal to surrender is holding the city captive", it said.

An estimated 600 fighters from South-east Asian nations are fighting in Syria and Iraq. Secretary Delfin Lorenzana is on his way back from Russian Federation with the President to personally oversee the situation. He warned residents to stay indoors.

Hapilon, who was recovering from wounds inflicted by an airstrike in January, is still hiding out in the city under the protection of gunmen who are desperately trying to find a way to extricate him, said Philippine military chief Gen. Eduardo Ano.

The crisis began late Tuesday when Philippine security forces launched a mission to arrest militant leader Isnilon Hapilon, who was believed to be in Marawi recovering from wounds sustained in a previous clash.

"The Commission reminds the members of its police force and army in Mindanao where the limits of their power lie in regards to protecting its civilians", it said in a statement on Friday.

  • Leroy Wright