Philippine President Duterte Tells Soldiers They Can Rape Women

Fighting erupted on Tuesday after a bungled raid by security forces on a Maute hideout, which spiralled into chaos, with gunmen seizing bridges, roads and buildings and taking Christians hostage.

"They do not know what is happening on the ground", Duterte said Saturday on Jolo, a southern island that is under martial law. At least 44 people have died in the fighting, including 31 militants and 11 soldiers. It is not immediately clear whether civilians are among the dead.

The strength and capability of the militants have reinforced fears of Islamic State gaining a foothold in the southern Philippines, from where it could organise attacks in other parts of south-east Asia.

Duterte is notorious for comments often deemed offensive and intended the remark as a joke, reiterating that only he will be liable for any backlash over military rule on Mindanao Island.

"Just because you are a journalist, you are not exempted from assassination if you are a son of a bitch", Duterte said then.

Snipers fired on Friday afternoon at about 100 troops who were marching single-file uphill through one district of Marawi that the militants had previously controlled, according to journalists accompanying the soldiers.

"You can see that ISIS is here already", Duterte said in a speech Friday at a military camp near Marawi, referring to the militant group by another acronym, as officials said the insurgents were from multiple countries.

The comment sparked criticism on social media and Chelsea Clinton, daughter of former United States president Bill Clinton and presidential candidate Hillary Clinton, called Duterte "a murderous thug with no regard for human rights".

"And if you can not be convinced to stop fighting, so be it. Let's just fight", he said.

Aminola Mitmug, a native of this city, said they prayed on Saturday morning while bombs were exploding in nearby villages. "We can not just pinpoint the particular spot". Hapilon has also suffered a mild stroke, he said.

"That's why we are appealing to you now while there's still time, to exercise your common sense, he said". "We have to finish this".

Gen Ano also said foreign fighters are believed to be inside, but he was more cautious. In 2005, the US Treasury Department seized Hapilon's assets for suspected terrorist activities and association with Al Qaeda and Osama bin Laden.

Much of Marawi remains a no-go zone, but disturbing details have emerged. One local police chief has told reporters that he is fine - two days after Mr Duterte announced he had been beheaded by militants. Enriquez has been in the job for about two months.

"They are employing guerrilla warfare", he said, adding the insurgents are using snipers to fight the troops.

Hapilon, a leader of another Mindanao-based rebel group Abu Sayyaf, pledged allegiance to Islamic State a year ago and has formed an alliance with Maute.

In a bid to retake Marawi, government troops neutralized at least 41 Maute fighters, including militants of Malaysian and Indonesian origin, according to a military spokesman, as cited by Reuters.

Although Hapilon and other groups in the southern Philippines have pledged allegiance to the IS, there is no clear sign of significant, material ties.

Hapilon is on Washington's list of most-wanted terrorists and has a $5 million bounty on his head.

  • Leroy Wright