ISIS-linked militants besiege Philippine city

2017-05-25 16:02
Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte during a press conference in Manila. (Aaron Favila, AP File)

Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte during a press conference in Manila. (Aaron Favila, AP File)

Multimedia   ·   User Galleries   ·   News in Pictures Send us your pictures  ·  Send us your stories

Marawi - Army tanks packed with soldiers rolled into a southern Philippine city on Thursday as gunfire and explosions rang out after militants linked to the ISIS group torched buildings, seized more than a dozen Catholic hostages and raised the black flag of ISIS.

At least 21 people have died in fighting that erupted late on Tuesday, when the army raided the Marawi hideout of Isnilon Hapilon, who is on Washington's list of most-wanted terrorists and has a $5m bounty on his head.

The operation went wrong as the militants called in reinforcements and swept through the mostly Muslim city of 200 000 people. Hapilon's whereabouts were not clear, but there was no indication he was captured in the raid.

President Rodrigo Duterte declared martial law across the southern third of the nation - home to some 22 million people - and warned he may expand it nationwide.

He vowed to be "harsh".

"If I think that you should die, you will die," he said on Wednesday. "If you fight us, you will die. If there is open defiance, you will die. And if it means many people dying, so be it."

Fear and beheading 

As details of the attack in Marawi city emerged, fears mounted that the largest Roman Catholic nation in Asia could be falling into a growing list of countries grappling with the spread of influence from the ISIS group in Syria and Iraq.

Thousands of people were fleeing the city on Thursday, jamming their belongings into cars. Plumes of black smoke rose in the distance and two air force helicopters could be seen flying over the city centre.

Mohammad Usman, a 49-year-old Marawi resident, said some people are likely trapped with no way out.

"At night we can hear the gunfire. I'm just praying that the bullets will not find its way to my house and hit us," he said as he left the city. "I hope that the bombs will not land nearby and harm us."

Although much of the city is sealed off, disturbing details were trickling out.

Duterte said a local police chief was stopped at a militant checkpoint and beheaded. Military chief of staff Gen Eduardo Ano said the militants erected ISIS flags at several locations.

Marawi Bishop Edwin de la Pena said the militants forced their way into the Marawi Cathedral and seized a Catholic priest, 10 worshippers and three church workers.

Martial law

Martial law allows Duterte to use the armed forces to carry out arrests, searches and detentions more rapidly. He has repeatedly threatened to place the south, the scene of decades-long Muslim separatist uprisings, under martial law. But human rights groups have expressed fears that martial law powers could further embolden Duterte, whom they have accused of allowing extrajudicial killings of thousands of people in his crackdown on illegal drugs.

Hapilon, an Arabic-speaking Islamic preacher known for his expertise in commando assaults, pledged allegiance to the ISIS group in 2014. He is a commander of the Abu Sayyaf militant group and was wounded by a military airstrike in January.

While pursuing peace talks with two large Muslim rebel groups in the south, Duterte has ordered the military to destroy smaller extremist groups which have tried to align with the ISIS group.

At least one of those smaller groups, the Maute, was involved in the Marawi siege. It's one of less than a dozen new armed Muslim groups that have pledged allegiance to the ISIS and formed a loose alliance, with Hapilon reportedly designated as the alliance's leader.

Political analyst Ramon Casiple said the Maute is a clan-based group with members in Marawi who came to Hapnilon's assistance, with some directly assisting in the fighting and others fanning out to different parts of the city, setting up checkpoints and burning some buildings and taking hostages from the cathedral.

"It is difficult to root out because they are from there," he said. "The Mautes are embedded in the population."

The group has been blamed for a bombing that killed 15 people in southern Davao city, Duterte's hometown, last September and a number of attacks on government forces in Lanao, although it has faced setbacks from a series of military offensives.

In April, troops backed by airstrikes killed dozens of Maute militants and captured their jungle camp near Lanao del Sur's Piagapo town. Troops found homemade bombs, grenades, combat uniforms and passports of suspected Indonesian militants in the camp, the military said.


Read more on:    isis  |  philippine

Join the conversation!

24.com encourages commentary submitted via MyNews24. Contributions of 200 words or more will be considered for publication.

We reserve editorial discretion to decide what will be published.
Read our comments policy for guidelines on contributions.
NEXT ON NEWS24X

Inside News24

 
/World
 

French Bulldog helps kids with facial differences

Lentil Bean is a french bulldog who was born with a severe cleft nose, lip and palate.

 
 

Paws

Weird things dogs do
Makeover saves dog’s life
For the love of Corgis!
Can we communicate with our pets?
Traffic Alerts
There are new stories on the homepage. Click here to see them.
 
English
Afrikaans
isiZulu

Hello 

Create Profile

Creating your profile will enable you to submit photos and stories to get published on News24.


Please provide a username for your profile page:

This username must be unique, cannot be edited and will be used in the URL to your profile page across the entire 24.com network.

Settings

Location Settings

News24 allows you to edit the display of certain components based on a location. If you wish to personalise the page based on your preferences, please select a location for each component and click "Submit" in order for the changes to take affect.




Facebook Sign-In

Hi News addict,

Join the News24 Community to be involved in breaking the news.

Log in with Facebook to comment and personalise news, weather and listings.