Philippine military bomb Islamist militants in urban battle
May 27 2017 by Lorena Waters
It has now been four days since armed insurgents, reportedly linked to the so-called Islamic State, stormed Marawi, a city in the southern part of the Philippines. Civilians waved flags from their windows to show they are not combatants.
Military spokesman Brig. Gen. Restituto Padilla says government forces are working to clear the city of militants. President Rodrigo Duterte has imposed martial law on Mindanao, which is the country's second-largest island, to stop the spread of radical Islam.
He said some civilians refused to evacuate because they want to guard their homes, which is slowing down the government operations. He said Hapilon's group was composed of around 100 men, contrary to initial military reports that the group was composed of around 15 men only.
The military said they had rescued 120 people from a school and a hospital and were trying to isolate Maute fighters while awaiting reinforcements that were being blocked by rebels.
At least 50 Maute members have been killed in isolated clashes with Philippine police and soldiers in the past five months.
Coordinating Minister for Political, Legal, and Security Affairs Wiranto said that Marawi in the Philippines could be the location of convergence for the Islamic State (ISIS).
"We are in a state of emergency", Duterte said Wednesday after he cut short a trip to Moscow and flew back to Manila.
Last year, the group sought recognition from the Islamic State, pledging allegiance and calling itself as the IS-Ranao.
He said there are about 50 to 80 Maute Group members still in Marawi City who have to be dislodged.
He said he would consider some legal measures in the central Visayas region next to Mindanao to facilitate arrests, and might even declare martial law nationwide if he felt extremists had proliferated.
A Filipino soldier secures the site in the Maguindanao Province
The media wing of ISIS, Amaq Agency, put out a statement announcing that "fighters of the Islamic State launch a wide-scale offensive on positions of Philippine troops in the city of Marawi".
"We are therefore calling on all citizens not only those in Marawi (City) but also in other areas of Mindanao to join us in the fight".
They reported further skirmishes overnight in Marawi but on Wednesday afternoon it was unclear how many militants were still in the city or if they had escaped into nearby mountains and forests that they have long used as hideouts.
In moving to take Mr Hapilon, the government underestimated the militants' strength, and the raid went awry. "Malaysians, Indonesians, and one other", Padilla said.
Duterte has vowed to crush the rebels saying: "Anyone now holding a gun, confronting government with violence, my orders are spare no-one, let us solve the problems of Mindanao once and for all".
Much of Marawi remains a no-go zone, but disturbing details have emerged.
Washington has offered a $5 million reward for information leading to Hapilon's capture, but he has proved elusive.
The official said they were still validating a report that terrorists snatched off a parish priest and about a dozen parishioners from St. Mary's Cathedral.
Abu Sayyaf, a notoriously violent Muslim militant group founded in the 1990s, is known for carrying out kidnappings and beheadings of Filipinos and foreigners, as well as bombings, assassinations and armed attacks.