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

Philippines forces hit militants; civilians wave white flags

Duterte said in a Friday speech to the troops in Illigan, near Marawi on southern Mindanao island, "you can arrest any person, search any house without warrant". At least 44 people, majority suspected militants, have been killed.

Ano predicted that the military operation will take about a week as soldiers go house to house to clear the city of militants.

Romeo Enriquez, the still-living police Malabang chief, meanwhile said he has "shocked" to hear the president report him dead by decapitation. As authorities worked to clear the city, residents spoke of their terror. "So they said, well, we have the framework in place through our agreements to cooperate", Philippine Foreign Affairs Secretary Alan Cayetano said on Wednesday. He also stated that the United States will continue to provide support and assistance to Philippine counter-terrorism groups.

"We were preparing for exams and we could hear the gunfire and bombs", one student who evacuated told Reuters news agency.

The women's group slams the Philippines government of President Rodrigo Duterte for declaring Martial Law and inviting soldiers to rape up to three women each with impunity. Marawi has a population of around 200,000.

"My message mainly to the terrorists on the other side is we can still solve this through dialogue", Duterte said on Friday.

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Martial law is extremely sensitive in the Philippines because dictator Ferdinand Marcos used it as a tool to remain in power for part of his two-decade rule, which ended with a "People Power" revolution in 1986.

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

Lt. Col. Jo-ar Herrera, an army spokesman based in Mindanao, said 41 members of the Maute militants have been killed in the firefight that broke out since Tuesday.

Security forces on Saturday continued fighting Daesh-linked militants in Marawi, a pre-dominantly Muslim city in the country's south.

In a statement on its website the group shares information and intelligence about the Islamic State gained from its experiences in the Middle East.

"In as much as we would like to avoid collateral damage, these rebels are forcing the hand of government by hiding and holding out inside private homes, government building and other facilities", Padilla said. But he added that the smaller groups "are working to really get that recognition and funds, of course".

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The United States listed one of the world's most unsafe terrorists and has offered a bounty of US$5 million (S$6.9 million) for his capture. He has pledged allegiance to IS and Philippine Solicitor General Jose Calida said IS had designated him its leader in the Philippines. Once again, Hapilon escaped. Hapilon was believed to be staying in Marawi, nursing wounds suffered from a previous clash. The city of Marawi was still largely sealed off Thursday, although automatic gunfire and explosions could be heard.

Attack helicopters and special forces have been deployed in the offensive.

As authorities tried to gain more control over the city, disturbing details have emerged. The gunmen also forced their way into the residence of Bishop Edwin de la Pena of Marawi.

Duterte told soldiers in Iligan, a city near Marawi, that he had long feared that "contamination by ISIS" loomed in the country's future, using the acronym for the Islamic State group.

Activists march to Mendiola near the Malacanang Palace in Manila on May 26, 2017, condemning the government's martial law implemention in the war-torn southern Philippines.

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