Rodrigo Duterte warns of 'contamination' by ISIS

On the campaign trail Duterte also jokingly told voters to open funeral parlour businesses because as president he would fill them with corpses from a war on drugs.

"Right now, he is still inside (the city)", Gen. Eduardo Ano told the AP. Civilians waved flags from their windows to show they are not combatants.

More than 44 people have died since terrorists launched their attack Tuesday against the city of Marawi on the island of Mindanao.

Rebels have torn through the streets of Marawi since Tuesday night, torching buildings, taking a priest and his worshippers hostage, and sealing off much of the city. Their condition was not known. It was not clear whether civilians were among the dead.

The violence prompted Duterte on Tuesday to declare 60 days of martial law in the southern Philippines, where a Muslim separatist rebellion has raged for decades. The violence has forced thousands of people to flee and raised fears of growing extremism in the country.

All these groups are inspired by the Islamic State group, but so far there is no sign of significant, material ties.

"I saw two jets swoop down and fire at rebel positions repeatedly", Alexander Mangundatu, a security guard, told The Associated Press in Marawi as a plume of black smoke billowed from a distant commercial area that was hit.

Mandaue Chamber of Commerce and Industry president Glenn Anthony Soco, one of the reactors during the forum hosted by Cebu Business Club, said economic uncertainties are already factored in, in the country's setting of economic targets, and that any negative effects of the martial law declaration would be temporary. "They're getting caught in the conflict and I hope this ends soon".

A military spokesman says troops are using helicopters to help clear militants from the besieged city of Marawi in the southern Philippines.

"On account of the doubts that have been expressed by many quarters, we also appeal to the public that should you see abuses on the part of those implementing martial law, men in uniform who are tasked to do that, we encourage you to report them and on our part, we will provide you a swift probe and a quick action to ensure the accountability of our men", he said.

"We encourage them to surrender them to authorities or to initiate appropriate measures to legalize their possession of firearms, so that you will not be subject to the inconvenience of future search and seizure procedures", Padilla said. The black flags of the Islamic State group were planted atop buildings and flown from commandeered vehicles, including a government ambulance and an armored auto, said Mamintal Alonto Adiong Jr., vice governor of Lanao del Sur province, of which Marawi is the capital.

"We will make this their cemetery", he said, estimating that the operation could take about a week.

"Just because you are a journalist, you are not exempted from assassination if you are a son of a bitch", Duterte said then. He said governmental planes are at their disposal for the wounded to be transported and the best medical equipment is available.

But the operation quickly went wrong as the militants called in reinforcements.

Malaysians, Indonesians and other foreigners were among the guerrillas killed on Thursday, which the government said demonstrated how the Philippines could become a haven for overseas militants.

Hapilon, who is a commander of the Abu Sayyaf militant group, pledged allegiance to the Islamic State group in 2014. He also heads an alliance that includes at least 10 smaller militant groups, including the Maute, which have a heavy presence in Marawi and were instrumental in fighting off government forces in this week's battles.

The US regards Hapilon as one of the world's most risky terrorists, offering a bounty of US$5 million ($S6.9 million) for his capture.

  • Leroy Wright