Philippines: ISIS-linked terrorists take control of church

May 25, 2017, 07:54
Philippines: ISIS-linked terrorists take control of church

Duterte declared martial law in the southern region of Mindanao, home to about 20 million people, on Tuesday night after gunmen who had declared allegiance to the Islamic State group rampaged through a southern city.

Duterte-Carpio said she wants security forces to focus on the coastal areas, which are believed to be the entry and exit points of terrorists passing by Davao City. "That's how it is".

Clashes between government forces and the Maute group, an Islamist militant organization based in Mindanao, began in Marawai, a city of about 200,000 people, PNA reported.

"The whole of Marawi city is blacked out, there is no light, and there are Maute snipers all around", Mr Lorenzana said.

Thirteen militants and seven members of the security forces have so far been killed and 33 troops wounded in the fighting, according to the military.

The declaration is likely to be controversial in the Philippines, where martial law is remembered by many for its adoption by former dictator Ferdinand Marcos, who was ousted by popular revolt in 1986 after a 21-year rule. He was also furious that the Maute group had hoisted the flag of Islamic State.

"Our country needs modern weapons... to fight against the Islamic State group we need weapons", Duterte said in Moscow.

"The government must put an end to this".

Lorenzana said more troops will be brought into the city on Wednesday.

The armed forces said it was on top of the situation but residents who fled told a different story. "The armed men we are dealing with are not ISIS but members (of a) local terrorist group".

DCCCII chairman Antonio dela Cruz said Mindanao has yet to know the economic impact of the martial law when its guidelines are released but its declaration only shows the seriousness of the resolve of the President to achieve a long-lasting peace and end lawlessness in the county. "Better we pave the way for progress and development now than having to have our progress impeded by arrogant, morally misguided individuals or groups in the future", he said.

Archbishop Socrates Villegas, president of the Catholic Bishops Conference of the Philippines, and another church official said Wednesday that gunmen forced their way into a cathedral in Marawi city and seized the Rev. Chito Suganob and more than a dozen churchgoers and staff as fighting raged between government troops and Muslim militants.

"We beg every Filipino to pray fervently".

Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte said on Wednesday he will deal harshly with terrorism and that martial law on the island of Mindanao would remain in place for a year if necessary.

The goal of Tuesday's raid was to capture Isnilon Hapilon, a leader of the Abu Sayyaf group which is notorious for piracy and for kidnapping and beheading Westerners.

The Maute and Abu Sayyaf have pledged allegiance to Islamic State and have proved fierce opponents for the military. Lidasan had warned before in social media that it might be used as a pretext to declare Martial Law, considering that Duterte's "militarized cabinet has been projecting (it) for many weeks now".

The National Union of Peoples' Lawyers, a group of human rights attorneys, called it "a sledgehammer, knee-jerk reaction" that would "open the flood gates for unbridled human rights violations".

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