Under martial law, Duterte tells troops 'you can arrest any person'

Daesh-linked militants locked in street-to-street battles with troops in a southern Philippine city have killed 19 civilians, the military said on Sunday, bringing the official death toll from almost a week of fighting to at least 85. Duterte has told police to "spare no one" fighting them and has assured terrorists, "you will die" if confronting officers.

Witnesses have said Duterte, who has claimed to have personally participated in the death squads while serving as mayor of Davao City, oversaw the executions and instructed members on how to dispose of bodies. "We appeal for everyones understanding as we take the necessary steps to accomplish our mission and prevent the lost of more innocent lives and damage to private and public property", Padilla said. "We have to finish this".

Padilla said 61 militants have been killed together with 11 soldiers and four police since Tuesday, when a failed raid to capture one of Asia's top militants triggered an attack on the city.

The fierce resistance of the Maute gunmen and the apparent executions of civilians will add to growing fears that subscribers to Islamic State's radical ideology are determined to establish a presence in the southern Philippines, with the support of extremists from Indonesia and Malaysia.

It was unclear whether those eight were included in the military's count of civilian deaths.

Marawi is a mostly Muslim city.

"What's happening in Mindanao is no longer a rebellion of Filipino citizens", Solicitor General Jose Calida told reporters in explaining why martial law was imposed.

Authorities say foreigners, including Indonesians and Malaysians, have been among the dozens of militants who have been killed since Tuesday.

Cardinal Luis Tagle released a statement Thursday afternoon pleading for prayers for the besieged city: "We must ask what makes people hurt their neighbor?" Mr Enriquez has been in the job for about two months.

The man at the centre of the Marawi violence is an Arabic-speaking Islamic preacher known for his expertise in commando assaults.

Troops were trying desperately to drive the militants out in the open as security forces cordoned off Marawi to prevent the jihadists from escaping.

Herrera also said over 200 civilians trapped inside the combat zone have been "rescued" from their homes. But he added that the smaller groups "are working to really get that recognition and funds, of course". The United States regards Hapilon as one of the world's most unsafe terrorists and has offered a bounty of Dollars 5 million for his capture. The clashes between Filipino government troops and the Islamist militants have been deadly. Once again, Hapilon escaped.

"Duterte's pro-rape comments only confirm some of the worst fears of human rights activists that the Duterte government will not just turn a blind eye to possible military abuses in Mindanao, but may actively encourage them", Kine said.

The Maute militants have burned several buildings, including the Catholic cathedral and the bishop's residence. Maute terrorists beheaded the police chief of Marawi city, freed over 100 terrorists from local prisons, and have raised the Islamic State flag over Marawi.

The southern Philippine region has always been a hotbed of fundamentalist activity, including terror groups like Abu Sayyaf.

Duterte has warned that he might expand martial law nationwide, an unnerving prospect for many in the Philippines who lived through the rule of late dictator Ferdinand Marcos.

  • Leroy Wright