Philippine army fighting to retake southern city

The exodus of thousands of residents has co.

Residents flee three days after Muslim militants lay siege in Marawi city in southern Philippines Thursday, May 25, 2017.

This week, after receiving intelligence that Hapilon was in Marawi for medical treatment, the military launched a raid on an apartment where he was believed to be hiding.

Two military helicopters flew above Marawi and armoured tanks churned through its streets as automatic rifle firing could be heard today, according to an AFP photographer in the city.

De la Peña told Agenzia Fides that people in the city were "terrified".

"Anyone now holding a gun, confronting the government with violence, my orders are spare no one, let us solve the problems of Mindanao once and for all", Duterte said Wednesday.

It was not immediately clear whether civilians were among the dead. Marawi mayor Majul Gandamra said some rebels from the Maute were still holed up in buildings and sporadic gunfire could be heard. "I'm just praying that the bullets will not find its way to my house and hit us", he said as he left the city.

Long queues of pickup trucks and jeeps crammed full of people and loaded with belongings crawled along roads into nearby towns as troops searched vehicles for weapons and bombs.

President Rodrigo Duterte declared martial law across the southern third of the nation - home to some 22 million people - and warned he may expand it nationwide. Marawi has a population of around 200,000.

Tuesday's clashes prompted President Rodrigo Duterte to place the entire Mindanao under martial law.

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

"Giving more powers to a president who is already being accused of human rights violations certainly raises anxiety for some groups", stated Jean Franco, assistant professor at the University of the Philippines.

On Tuesday evening, May 23, Duterte declared martial law in Mindanao in the wake of a confrontation between government troops and local militants in Marawi City.

On Tuesday, Mindanao-based activist group Suara Bangsamoro warned of reports that aerial and artillery strikes were being planned against Maute group militants in the city and warned of the possible loss of civilian life.

Hundreds have died and millions have been spent in the hunt for the Abu Sayyaf chieftain designated by the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS) as its top man in South-east Asia past year.

The United States regards Hapilon as one of the world's most unsafe terrorists, offering a bounty of US$5 million (RM21.39 million) for his capture.

The occupation of Marawi by at least 100 heavily armed militants from the little-known Maute group has intensified fears that the Philippines faces a growing threat from Isis, which claimed responsibility for the rampage via its Amaq propaganda arm. But it went spectacularly wrong. The latest close call came in January, when the military dropped bombs on a militant camp where Hapilon was seen. Once again, Hapilon escaped.

The agency also condemned the attack staged by Maute group in Marawi City as it called for the government to deal with the perpetrators without any compromise and put them to justice.

The Armed Forces reported killing at least 13 Maute members.

"Wala po. Wala po silang kontrolado na area", Herrera said.

"We shall continue to augment and replenish our rice stocks in Mindanao to ensure that we can meet any need for the staple food during the duration of this man-made calamity", Aquino said.

Although much of the city is sealed off, disturbing details were trickling out.

He spoke as the fighting raged in Marawi city, where militants seized a priest, 10 worshippers and three church workers from a cathedral as they rampaged through the city. 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.

The declaration of martial law was meant to address threats by the Maute group, Abu Sayyaf and other rebel groups, the Palace said in a report to Congress on the declaration of martial law.

Latest News