Published: Sun, May 28, 2017
Global News | By Stacy Ballard

Philippine forces hit militants; civilians wave white flags

"During martial law, your commanders, you can arrest any person, search any house, no need for a warrant", Duterte said in direct contravention of the Philippines' 1987 constitution. The province is a stronghold for the Maute group, which has pledged allegiance to so-called Islamic State (IS). "If you can not be convinced to stop fighting, so be it", Duterte said.

Special forces commandoes were deployed to drive out the remaining 20 to 30 Maute group rebels holed-up in Marawi but encountered heavy resistance on Friday.

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

"We can still talk about it", Mr Duterte said. They must understand the truth that IS ideology took hold in their country.

He added: "Before it was just a local terrorist group".

An OV-10 bomber flies to drop bombs during a continuous assault with insurgents from the so-called Maute group in Marawi City.

Military spokesman Brig. Gen. Restituto Padilla says government forces are working to clear the city of militants. "Now they have become more barbaric and brutal like ISIS, they think that by doing this they can achieve their goals." he said.

TIMELINE: Maute attack in Marawi
President Rodrigo Duterte responded to the situation by declaring martial law throughout his native island of Mindanao.

Duterte has warned of "contamination" by Islamic State, exploiting the poverty, lawlessness and porous borders of predominantly Muslim areas of Mindanao island to establish a base for radicals from Southeast Asia and beyond.

Solicitor General Jose Calida told reporters Friday that what was happening in the city was "no longer a rebellion of Filipino citizens".

"It has transmogrified into invasion by foreign terrorists, who heeded the call of the ISIS to go to the Philippines if they find difficulty in going to Iraq and Syria".

Hapilon got away and fighters loyal to him took over parts of the city, burning buildings, taking cover in houses and seizing about a dozen hostages, including a Catholic priest.

However, he has also offered dialogue to militants who are not on the streets fighting.

Isnilon Hapilon, the wanted leader of another local terrorist group called Abu Sayyaf, was "declared by the IS as its emir or leader in the Philippines", Calida said.

The Maute, Abu Sayyaf and other small hardline groups are not interested in negotiating peace and have in recent years looked to IS to help them. Hapilon has also suffered a mild stroke, he said. The military said he is still wounded from a January air strike and being protected by his fighters.

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"If we capture him, all the better". One of the biggest Muslim-populated cities in the mainly Catholic Philippines, its population of about 200,000 residents had largely been evacuated because of the fighting.

Convoys of vehicles packed with evacuees and protected by heavily armed soldiers streamed into nearby Iligan City. Mark Angelou Siega, a Christian, described how students fled their campus.

"Let us be considerate with our Muslim brothers and sisters who have started to observe the Ramadan".

"Together we pray for an end to terrorism that falsely claims to advance Islam and seeks to subjugate our land to the brutal IS", Abella said in a statement, referring to the group by its other name.

"This is really very painful for us Muslims", he told the Deutsche Presse Agentur news agency.

All these groups are inspired by the Islamic State group, but so far there is no sign of significant, material ties.

"My order to the troops is all people who are not authorized by government to carry arms and they resist, kill them, wipe them out", he said.

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