Priest and churchgoers kidnapped by IS militants in Philippines

"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. "If Allah wills it so, then we can not stop it", he said, pointing his finger in the air.

As fighting entered the fifth day, he said 13 soldiers and two policemen have also been killed and 45 soldiers wounded.

After the raid failed, gunmen swept through the streets, fending off government forces and taking over large parts of the city.

A police chief in the southern Philippines has said he is safe after President Rodrigo Duterte announced earlier that he had been beheaded.

Meanwhile, a local resident who requested anonymity said most residents concurred with the military command, and moved to the cities of Zamboanga, Pagadian and Cotabato, about 10 to 12 hours away from Marawi.

"The Filipinos need to get their act together ..." Duterte has also confessed to having "cousins" in the Islamic State, as his family hails from the Muslim regions of the south.

It is a rare admission by the authorities that local jihadists are working with worldwide groups.

Singapore's Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA) spokesperson said on Friday that a Singaporean man has been implicated in terrorism-related activities in the southern Philippines.

Restituto Padilla Jr said at least 31 militants subscribed to ISIS have been killed; some of them are from Malaysia, Singapore and Indonesia.

The White House on Thursday said it backed the Philippine fight against "cowardly terrorists".

The little-known Maute group has staged similar, days-long sieges on Mindanao island but none on the scale of Marawi, where witnesses said flags resembling those of Islamic State had been flown and some men were wearing black headbands. In reprisal, as many as 500 Islamic militants attacked Marawi.

Philippines Solicitor General Jose Calida told reporters on Friday that the declaration of martial law shouldn't cause alarm for law-abiding citizens.

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

Security forces are attempting to flush out rebels of the Maute and Abu Sayyaf armed groups, which have declared allegiance to ISIL. "They want to create Mindanao as part of the caliphate", he said.

Abu Sayyaf has a track record of banditry, piracy and violence, while the lesser-known Maute group has proven itself a fierce battlefield opponent for the military, able to sustain air and artillery bombardments and regroup after heavy losses.

"We're leaving", said a resident named Edith, walking along a rundown street carrying a small suitcase.

Hapilon is still hiding in the city under the protection of gunmen who are desperately trying to find a way to "extricate" him, the country's military chief, General Eduardo Ano said.

"If we capture him, all the better. It has transmogrified into an invasion by foreign fighters", he told a news conference.

Fighters locked in street-to-street battles with security forces in a southern Philippine city on Mindanao island have killed 19 civilians, the military said on Sunday, bringing the official death toll from almost a week of fighting to at least 85. Army tanks packed with soldiers rolled into the southe.

  • Leroy Wright


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