AFP Featured: 6 foreigners among terrorists killed in Marawi

Cheryl Sanders
May 31, 2017

Calida said Islamic State had declared that Hapilon was "their emir, or leader in the Philippines".

The military intensified a bombing campaign on parts of Marawi on Mindanao island, one of the biggest Muslim cities in the mainly Catholic nation, as it accused the gunmen of atrocities including murdering women and a child. Army tanks packed with soldiers rolled into the southe.

The Philippine military said on Sunday it had found the bodies of 16 civilians as troops tried to gain control over the Marawi, which has been under siege from ISIS-allied militants.

The Chief Executive said the terrorists' occupation of Marawi City is their "strategic" move because the area has served as "escape routes, supply lines, and backdoor passages".

Philippine army makes gains as alarm grows over fate of up to 2,000 people stranded amid street battles and air strikes.

Battles between Philippine security forces and Muslim insurgent groups have raged for years, but the fighting made worldwide news this week when Duterte, cutting short a trip to Russian Federation, declared martial law across Mindanao, an area home to more than 20 million people.

At least 31 militants and 11 soldiers have been killed in the fighting and thousands of civilians have fled the city.

"We take a moment to remember some of the first casualties in the May 23 attacks in Marawi City", Presidential Spokesperson Ernesto Abella said in a statement Saturday morning.

Meanwhile, Duterte also paid his last respects to the fallen soldiers and policemen during their wake in Iligan City.

Duterte gave his troops a free hand to wrest control of Marawi.

"The arms we ordered from America [was] cancelled", Mr Duterte said.

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

"Right now, he is still inside (the city)", Gen Eduardo Ano told the AP. "We can not just pinpoint the particular spot". Hapilon has also suffered a mild stroke, he said. But the operation went awry and militants rampaged through the city, torching buildings and battling government forces in the streets. "We have to finish this".

Manila Solicitor General Jose Calida said Indonesian and Malaysian jihadis were fighting alongside the Filipino brand of the extremist group. In 2005, the US Treasury Department seized Hapilon's assets for suspected terrorist activities and association with Al Qaeda and Osama bin Laden.

Much of Marawi remains a no-go zone, but disturbing details have emerged.

Police Chief Romeo Enriquez said there may have been confusion because his predecessor in Malabang, a town near Marawi, was killed in the fighting on Tuesday, although he was not beheaded. Several teachers, a priest and about a dozen parishioners were also reportedly taken as hostages.

A Philippine military spokesman, however, said that while the groups in Marawi were inspired by IS, they had not seen "any concrete evidence of material support from IS".

Washington has offered a $5 million reward for information leading to Hapilon's capture.

"I'd just like to clarify my message to the CPP-NPA: do not add yourselves as problems in what's happening in Mindanao".

He stressed that the lawless acts perpetrated by terrorist groups Abu Sayyaf and Maute have derailed the government's aim to achieve peace and order in the region.

Other reports by iNewsToday