'Invasion' for IS caliphate in Philippines

Cheryl Sanders
May 31, 2017

Convoys of vehicles packed with evacuees and protected by heavily armed soldiers streamed into nearby Iligan City.

Fires rage at several houses following airstrikes by Philippine Air Force in Marawi city, southern Philippines, on Saturday.

Residents look at bodies found in a ravine on the outskirts of Marawi on the southern Philippine island of Mindanao on Sunday.

A city of 200,000 people, Marawi is mostly deserted, with officials saying "80-90 percent" of the population has been evacuated.

As gunfire crackled in the background, Herrera says authorities believe Isnilon Hapilon, who is on Washington's list of most-wanted terrorists, is still in the city. "We can not just pinpoint the particular spot".

The government side has meanwhile suffered 13 deaths, including 11 soldiers and two policemen.

At the cathedral, they took hostages including a Catholic priest and a group of church-goers, threatening to kill them if the nation's military does not cease its current offensive against them. "We have to finish this". The violence has forced thousands of people to flee and raised fears of growing extremism. It is not clear if any civilians are among the dead.

Manila Solicitor General Jose Calida said Indonesian and Malaysian jihadis were fighting alongside the Filipino brand of the extremist group.

"Pray for our men-na sana wala tayong masyadong tama (that we would not lose too much)", he said. "You do not have to be a Mindanaoan to make a stand on what is right, on what is just, and what is for the interest of the majority", said Reyes. One local police chief told the AP on Friday that he was fine - two days after Mr Duterte announced he had been beheaded by militants.

On Friday, Duterte ordered his troops to crush the militants, warning that the country is at a grave risk of "contamination" by the Islamic State group.

The government forces recovered 16 bodies of civilians from separate locations as the military is still battling the fighters of the IS-linked Maute group in Marawi City, five days after the group staged an attack on the city.

The Maute have emerged from the glut of bandit and separatist groups in the southern Philippines and are a tactically smart, social media savvy group eager to align with Islamic State militants.

"We have not seen any concrete evidence of material support from IS", military spokesman Brig.

Expanding the military's legal authority in these conflicts, it said, opens the door to increased human rights violations against civilians, including leftist activists, indigenous leaders and environmental activists, who have always been targets of military abuses. But he added that the smaller groups "are working to really get that recognition and funds, of course".

The US regards Hapilon as one of the world's most risky terrorists, offering a bounty of US$5 million ($S6.9 million) for his capture. Once again, Hapilon escaped.

He said these groups, referring to the notorious local Maute Group, are trying to ally with the "Daesh", the Arabic word for ISIS, and are "feverishly wanting to comply with requirements that have been set for them", mainly involving violent activities.

He gave his troops a free hand to wrest control of Marawi, saying: "You can arrest any person, search any house without warrant". But there are fears the expanded powers could further embolden a leader who already has been accused of allowing extrajudicial killings of thousands of people in his crackdown on illegal drugs.

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