Duterte imposes martial law in Mindanao

Clash Erupts as Philippine Troops Raid Hideout of IS-Linked Fighters

Clash Erupts as Philippine Troops Raid Hideout of IS-Linked Fighters

President Duterte declared a 60-day martial law throughout the province of Mindanao as fighting continues to rage between Maute fighters and government forces.

Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana said troops raided the hideout of a top terrorist suspect in southern Marawi city, sparking a gunbattle that prompted the militants to call for reinforcements.

"I have to do it to preserve the Republic of the Philippines and the Filipino people", he said.

He didn't give details about what conditions martial law would include.

Duterte has also said he is willing to enforce martial law nationwide if it is needed to eradicate drugs in society.

Gunmen also occupied city hall, a state-run hospital, and part of a university compound, he said.

"As of 10:00pm Manila time (2pm GMT) Duterte has declared martial law for the entire island of Mindanao", spokesman Ernesto Abella said on national television.

Clashes between government forces and the Maute group, an Islamist militant organization based in Mindanao, began in Marawi, a city of about 200,000 people about 2 p.m. local time Tuesday.

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Social media users in the city posted photos online that claimed to show residents attempting to evacuate the city Wednesday morning.

During the meeting, Duterte informed Putin about the occupation by ISIS terrorists of some towns in Mindanao and apologized for cutting short his official visit. He had met with Russian President Vladimir Putin on Tuesday, and said he is counting on Russia to supply weapons for the Philippines to fight terrorism. The US State Department has offered a bounty of up to $US5 million ($6.7 million) for Hapilon's arrest.

The ongoing clash in Marawi City is aimed at neutralizing militant group Abu Sayyaf's leader Isnilon Hapilon, who is reportedly the representative of the Islamic State group in the Philippines.

Security analysts say Hapilon has been trying to unite Filipino militant groups that have professed allegiance to IS.

Government forces are now battling a terrorist group linked to ISIS, which has attacked parts of Marawi City.

According to the military, the Maute group was formed by the Maute family led by brothers Omar and Abdullah Maute, former members of the Moro Islamic Liberation Front.

While pursuing peace talks with two large Muslim rebel groups in the south of the predominantly Roman Catholic nation, Duterte has ordered the military to destroy smaller extremist groups which have tried to align with the Islamic State group.

The US and other Western governments also warned this month that terrorists plan to kidnap foreigners in tourist hotspots in Mindanao and the central Philippines.