Philippines says militants shot dead at least 16 civilians

May 29, 2017, 07:54

Philippines President Rodrigo Duterte declared martial law across Mindanao - the country's southernmost island and an area the size of South Korea - as troops outside Marawi closed in on Isnilon Hapilon, who was proclaimed "emir" of Southeast Asia previous year after he pledged allegiance to Islamic State.

"Warrants of arrest or search warrants should be issued", the statement from the government's information agency said. "The magnitude of the degree of the damage and the people that are affected ... it's really massive", he said.

"For this martial law and the consequences of martial law and the ramifications of martial law, I and I alone would be responsible; just do your jobs", he said, according to The New York Times. "I will go to jail for you". He later apologized and said he did not intend disrespect to women or rape victims.

Lt. Gen. Carlito G. Galvez Jr., a military commander, said about 150 trapped civilians have been rescued by troops from their homes, adding the militants were burning houses to distract troops. The charter requires the president to submit a report to congress on why martial law has been declared.

Tens of thousands of people have fled Marawi since Tuesday, when militants went on the rampage seizing a school, a hospital, and a cathedral.

A government soldier takes up position during a patrol along a deserted street in Marawi City, southern Philippines May 27, 2017.

Some civilians refused to evacuate because they want to guard their homes, slowing down the government operations, he said. Liong, his wife and eight children lost everything, he said - even their cooking pots.

"We express our sympathies to the families and friends who have lost loved ones in the ongoing crossfire", she said.

Among the civilians killed, eight were men were believed to have been executed and then thrown into a ravine along a highway.

Jo-Ar Herrera, a military spokesman, said 41 militants had been killed, with 10 deaths in heavy fighting on Friday.

Military spokesman Brigadier General Restituto Padilla says the dead include a group of four men, three women and a child who were found near a road close to the Mindanao State University in Marawi. "I could tell because they wore black headbands with the [IS] signs", said one man fleeing Marawi by foot. "Hence, it is now increasingly becoming necessary to use more surgical airstrikes to clear the city & to bring this rebellion to a quicker end". It is one of a number of hardline groups that split from the nation's biggest Muslim rebel organisation in anger at a planned peace accord.

Duterte said the founder and leader of the MNLF, Nur Misuari, had sent him a letter volunteering his men to join the battle in Marawi and other parts of Lanao del Sur province.

That figure includes 16 civilians, 61 militants, 11 soldiers, and four police officers.

The violence erupted Tuesday night when the government launched a raid to capture Ipsilon Hapilon, who is on Washington's list of most-wanted terrorists.

Philippine government forces launched "precision attacks" Thursday to clear militants linked to the Islamic State group from a southern city that has been under siege since a raid to capture a militant on the US list of most-wanted terrorists failed.

Jihadists burned down several buildings in the city, including a Catholic church, and a priest and several parishioners were kidnapped.

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