Philippine military says foreign fighters killed

Malacañang expressed appreciation for the support of 15 senators for President Rodrigo Duterte's declaration of martial law in Mindanao.

In recent years, small militant groups in the Philippines, Indonesia and Malaysia have begun unifying under the banner of the Islamic State group.

Three Malaysians, an Indonesian and possibly Arab extremists have been killed in the Marawi fighting, Ano said, citing the latest intelligence on the matter.

About 100 people have died in the violence, including some civilians, although authorities were still trying to assess the scope of the bloodshed.

It started when the military launched a "surgical operation" on Tuesday afternoon to take out Isnilon Hapilon, leader of the Jihadist group Abu Sayyaf, who was being protected by the Maute group members in an apartment.

Hapilon escaped and gunmen loyal to him swept through the city of 200,000 people, torching buildings and taking hostages.

Philippines' Solicitor General Jose Calida said the militant group has adopted ISIS' ideology, aimin g to turn Mindanao into a caliphate.

At least 65 militants and 20 Philippine troops and police have been killed, the military said.

"IS is shrinking in Iraq and Syria, and decentralising in parts of Asia and the Middle East", said Rohan Gunaratna, a security expert at Singapore's S. Rajaratnam School of International Studies.

Although Islamic State and groups affiliated to the movement have claimed several attacks across Southeast Asia in the last two years, the battle in Marawi City was the first long drawn-out confrontation with security forces. While Indonesia has been fighting local militants since 2002, the rise of the Islamic State group has breathed new life into those militant networks and raised concern about the risk of Indonesian fighters returning home from the Middle East.

Southeast Asian fighters fleeing the Middle East "could look to Mindanao to provide temporary refuge as they work their way home", said a report late previous year by the Jakarta-based Institute for Policy Analysis of Conflict, predicting a high risk of regional violence.

"... It is incumbent upon both the Senate and the House of Representatives to conduct a joint session for the objective of determining the constitutional and factual validity of the proclamation of preventing abuses in its implementation and ensuring the safety of the people of Marawi and the whole of Mindanao", the minority bloc said in their resolution.

Last month, troops killed dozens of Maute militants and captured their jungle camp near Lanao del Sur's Piagapo town. Mindanao has a significant Muslim population, though the Philippines is a predominantly Catholic country.

Philippines President Rodrigo Duterte suggested over the weekend that he would be open to tapping nationalist rebel groups, which recently signed peace deals with the government, as reinforcements in the fight against ISIS. Amid continuing poverty and other social ills, restiveness among minority Muslims has continued. Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana told reporters that Hapilon has received funds from the Islamic State group.

The head of the Malaysian police force's counter-terrorism division, Ayob Khan Mydin Pitchay, named four Malaysians who are known to have travelled to Mindanao to join militant groups. He said they also pressured local Muslim preachers, accustomed to a less-strict form of Islam, not to speak out against them. In one area, the bodies of eight men who appeared to have been executed by militants were found in a ravine, police said.

More than 100 people have been killed in the seige- a lot of them militants - and most of the city's residents have fled. "So many were affected".

  • Leroy Wright