Philippines Says Foreign Fighters Have Joined IS-Linked Militant Group

Cheryl Sanders
May 27, 2017

(AP Photo/Bullit Marquez). Residents are seen on tops of vehicles as they continue to flee three days after Muslim militants lay siege in Marawi city in the southern Philippines, Thursday, May 25, 2017. Army tanks packed with soldiers rolled into t.

Philippine troops entered Mindanao Thursday to begin clearing out the Islamist militants.

While foreign fighters have always been suspected of joining militant groups in lawless parts of Mindanao, the government's announcement escalates a fragile situation in a region where troops are engaged in heavy fighting with militants.

He said Malaysians, Indonesians, Singaporeans and "other foreign fighters" were in Marawi.

The militants have torn through the streets of Marawi since Tuesday night, torching buildings, taking a priest and his worshippers hostage and sealing off much of the city.

"BRING IT ON.' Martial law survivor and Selda spokesperson Danny dela Fuente said the progressive mass movement is ready to 'arouse, organize, mobilize" and fight Duterte's martial law, just as they did during that of Marcos.

"I cannot gamble with ISIS because they are everywhere".On Tuesday, Duterte, a Mindanao native, cut short his Russian Federation trip and declared martial law in Mindanao following clashes between the Maute group and government forces.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".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.A tactically smart, social media savvy group eager to align with Islamic State has emerged from the glut of bandit and separatist groups in the southern Philippines, and so far has proved to be more than a match for the military.Thousands of people have fled the city, said Myrna Jo Henry, an emergency response official."The Philippine government is in full control, and fully aware the Maute Group/ISIS groups have the capability (although limited) to disturb the peace". One local police chief told the AP on Friday that he was fine - two days after Duterte announced he had been beheaded by militants. He said there may have been confusion because a former Malabang police chief was killed in the fighting - but he was not beheaded.

The city of Marawi has been wracked by violence since Tuesday night, when militants swept through the city.

Bagong Alyansang Makabayan (Bayan) secretary general Renato Reyes said on Friday that different groups made a decision to convene in Mendiola to voice out their strong opposition in martial law. But soldiers have been going house-to-house to clear the city of militants.

Lt. Col. Jo-ar Herrera says the helicopters are firing rockets in "a precision attack".

Duterte had repeatedly threatened to place the region under martial law, which allows him to use the armed forces to carry out arrests, searches and detentions more rapidly. The violence forced thousands to flee and raised fears of growing extremism in the country.

The southern Philippines has been troubled by decades-long Muslim separatist uprisings in the predominantly Catholic nation.

While the present Constitution has put safeguards to curb possible abuse of martial law, Ramos warned the current imposition could have worse effects than what the 20-year Marcos dictatorship had done to the country.

Expanding the military's legal authority in these conflicts 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.

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.

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

But the operation quickly went wrong as the militants called in reinforcements. Automatic gunfire and explosions could be heard clearly and plumes of black smoke rose from the direction of the city center. Air force helicopters swooped overhead.

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