Philippine forces make gains in southern city under siege

The military said the rebels may be getting help from "sympathetic elements" and fighters they had freed from jail during the rampage that started last Tuesday and caught the military by surprise. The siege "seems to be an effort by ISIS-inspired local groups to be recognized as a province of their caliphate", reporter Michael Sullivan told NPR yesterday, and the Philippine government is now taking the threat posed by ISIS more seriously. "I will not listen to others", he said. He said his grandfather had been sending him text messages asking to be saved.

"I think we can begin something more effective in terms of working together, in terms of dialogue, in terms of peaceful coexistence", he said.

Heavy fighting continued throughout the weekend in and around the city of Marawi, in the southern Philippines, as after the declaration of martial law, the Duterte government has dispatched the military to try to recapture the city, which has been more or less completely overrun by ISIS.

Chaos was unleashed upon Marawi when troops searching for Hapilon were ambushed by heavily armed militants. Gen. Restituto Padilla, the military spokesman.

Philippine National Police Chief Ronald de la Rosa said the operation takes time because the gunmen take advantage of the urban environment, moving quickly from building to building to evade capture.

The eight men had worked at a bakery and were attempting to join refugees heading north to nearby Iligan City when they were stopped by Maute gunmen, residents said.

Citing a report from the Philippine Army's 1st Infantry Division, Capt. Jo-Ann Petinglay, spokesperson of the Western Mindanao Command, confirmed the death toll of Maute members.

The bodies of eight men, a lot of them shot in the head with their hands tied behind their backs, have been found on the outskirts of Marawi, 830 kilometres south of Manila. One group of eight was found near Mindanao State University and included four men, three women and a child, he said.

Duterte imposed martial law last week on Mindanao, an island of 22 million people where both Marawi and Iligan are located, to quell the unrest and wipe out militancy.

A surveillance drone circled the sky above Marawi City.

Reports say the remaining fighters are still believed to be holding several hostages, including a priest and a number of Christians. There was no word on their condition.

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.

Presidential spokesman Ernesto Abella said the imposition of martial law was necessary, and constitutional.

Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana said troops raided the hideout of a top terrorist suspect in Marawi on Tuesday, sparking a gunbattle that prompted the militants to call for reinforcements from an allied group, the Maute.

"Warrants of arrest or search warrants should be issued", the statement from the government's information agency said. To date, he said, 19 civilians have been confirmed to have been executed by militants.

Government troops on board their Armored Personnel Carrier, pass a convoy of displaced residents to continue their offensive against Muslim militants, in Marawi, southern Philippines Monday, May 29, 2017.

Some rights activists and lawmakers say martial law across the island is an overreaction that will increase the risk of human rights abuses by security forces.

  • Leroy Wright