Soldiers try to restore order in besieged Philippine city

Soldiers try to restore order in besieged Philippine city

Soldiers try to restore order in besieged Philippine city

Militants called in reinforcements and swept through the streets, torching buildings, taking a Catholic priest and his worshippers hostage and sealing off much of the city to the outside world.

The Department of Interior and Local Government (DILG) has assured that the country's security forces are on top of the situation in Marawi City, stating that clearing operations are now being conducted by the Philippine National Police (PNP) and the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP).

The extremists' attack followed an army raid on the hideout of Isnilon Hapilon, a commander of the Abu Sayyaf militant group who has pledged allegiance to IS, on Tuesday.

Thousands of civilians have been fleeing the city of some 200,000 people.

Authorities have not reported any civilian casualties but the GMA television network showed images of nine people who had apparently been shot dead.

"At night we can hear the gunfire", said Mohammad Usman, who was among thousands of residents streaming out of the city Thursday, their belongings jammed into cars. "I'm just praying that the bullets will not find their way to my house and hit us".

On November 28, 2016, President Rodrigo Duterte revealed the link between the Maute group to Isis after the encounter between the military and the Maute group in Lanao del Sur.

Duterte said he is now considering whether to extend martial law across the entire country.

The Philippines endured a decade of martial law under the late dictator Ferdinand Marcos from the early 1970s and memories of campaigns to restore democracy and protect human rights are fresh in the minds of many people.

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"Based on our intelligence, Isnilon Hapilon is still in the city", Herrera said.

Hapilon is now on Washington's list of most-wanted terrorists.

But the operation quickly went wrong. Army tanks packed with soldiers rolled into the southern Philippine city Thursday as gunfire and explos. Last year, he was reportedly chosen to lead the Islamic State group branch in Southeast Asia. Plumes of black smoke rose from the direction of the city center and air force helicopters swooped overhead.

"We're confronting maybe 30 to 40 remaining from the local terrorist group", said Jo-Ar Herrera, a spokesman for the military's First Infantry Regiment.

"They have threatened to kill the hostages if the government forces unleashed against them are not recalled", said a statement released by the head of the Catholic Bishops' Conference of the Philippines, Archbishop Socrates Villegas. The black flags of the Islamic State group were planted atop buildings and flown from commandeered vehicles, including a government ambulance and an armored auto, said Mamintal Alonto Adiong Jr., vice governor of Lanao del Sur province.

Provincial Vice Gov. Mamintal Adiong said late Wednesday that more troops had arrived in the city, which was dark because 80 percent was without electrical power.

The Maute and Abu Sayyaf militant groups have pledged allegiance to Islamic State, also known as ISIS, and have proved fierce opponents for the military as Duterte seeks to crush extremists and prevent radical Islamist ideology from spreading in the Philippines.

Speaking to reporters after returning to Manila from a visit to Moscow, Duterte repeated that he will deal with militants "harshly" after declaring martial law in the southern Mindanao region, home to a decadeslong Muslim separatist rebellion.

The occupation of Marawi by at least 100 heavily armed militants from the little-known Maute group has intensified fears that the Philippines faces a growing threat from Islamic State, which claimed responsibility for the rampage via its Amaq propaganda arm.

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