Philippines pounds militants; civilians found shot dead

Philippine forces said they're in control of most of Marawi, the southern city where nearly 100 people were killed and 60,000 displaced following clashes in the past week between the military and Muslim extremists linked to Islamic State.

Most of the city's residents had fled to nearby towns.

And a women's political party in the country, Gabriela, said in a statement: "Rape is not a joke". His comment sparked outrage around the world.

At least 44 people have died in the fighting, including 31 militants and 11 soldiers, officials say.

More than 100 armed members of the Maute group, the Bangsamoro Islamic Liberation Front and Abu Sayyaf group attacked the city on Tuesday. The United States has offered a US$5 million (S$6.92 million) reward for his capture.

Government and volunteer rescue workers are scrambling to account for 3, 717 villagers stranded in areas where there are still sporadic skirmishes between Islamic State-inspired Maute militants and government forces trying to drive them away from Marawi City.

Duterte has said local criminals are also backing the Maute in Marawi. He said jihadists from Malaysia, Indonesia and Singapore are fighting in Marawi.

The Maute fighters quickly took over much of the city, torching a cathedral and hospital, among other buildings, and posting snipers to keep government troops at bay.

"But that's fine as long as civilians are not hurt", Padilla said.

Brig. Gen. Restituto Padilla said the eight bodies, including women and a child, were found on Saturday night and Sunday morning in Marawi city, which has been under siege by Maute militants since Tuesday, Xinhua reported. Near their bodies was a cardboard sign that said, "Munafik", which can mean hypocrite traitor.

The army said it was possible more "atrocities" had taken place.

Marawi was a city of about 200,000, though estimates are that most everyone has fled, and no more than a few thousand remain.

Military presence is heightened in Iligan City and Marawi City after President Rodrigo Duterte's declaration of martial law in Mindanao.

"Early in the morning, at 08.20, there are civilians, concerned citizens, who said 'can you verify these dead bodies?'"

"I was shot at from a helicopter as I was making my way home", he said.

While speaking at a military camp after imposing martial law across the south of the country, he said they were allowed to rape up to three women.

Writing in Forbes, global politics, security and political risk expert Anders Corr said the move was extreme and warned Duterte is now the biggest threat facing the country today.

Foreign fighters are said to be among the extremists who have taken over the southern city.

Duterte replied, "Just take care".

The latest comment prompted a storm of protest on social media.

A human rights group said his comment was "sickening" and Chelsea Clinton tweeted that rape was never amusing.

In his speech to the troops, Duterte said said ISIS "is here already" and flying its flags.

"President Duterte is a grotesque man", tweeted Preet Bharara, the former USA attorney in Manhattan who was sacked by Trump this year.

Presidential Spokesman Ernesto Abella said Monday that only small areas of Marawi are under militants' control. "Go for it and you have my full support".

"There are Maranaws who haven't perfectly memorized the verses they were asked to recite at gunpoint", a 54-year-old evacuee, Patiok Kasim, said in Filipino, in heavy Maranaw accent.

  • Leroy Wright