Philippine forces make gains in city under siege

Nick Mcbride
May 29, 2017

Government soldiers on military vehicles patrol after a continued assault on fighters from the Maute group who have taken over large parts of Marawi city, southern Philippines May 26, 2017.

"President Duterte is a grotesque man", tweeted Preet Bharara, the former US attorney in Manhattan who was sacked by Trump this year.

"You can say that ISIS is here already", he said. "These terrorists are anti-people", Herrera said.

Duterte imposed martial law last week on Mindanao, an island of 22 million people where both Marawi and Iligan are located, to quell the unrest and wipe out militancy.

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.

In a statement, the White House condemned the violence "perpetrated by an ISIS-linked terrorist group", referring to the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria, another name for Daesh.

The gunmen on Tuesday planted black IS flags, took a priest and up to 14 other people hostage from a church, and set fire to buildings.

The military on Saturday said no civilians have been confirmed killed in air strikes targeting members of the terrorist Maute and Abu Sayyaf groups in Marawi City.

The military said it has rescued 124 trapped civilians since the start of its operations.

Only small areas of Marawi are under militants' control after six days of fighting, said Brig.

"He gave his full support to the men and women in uniform, taking complete responsibility for their actions, even exaggeratedly describing crimes like taking a fourth wife", Abella said, while ignoring Duterte's preceding rape remark.

All of the groups are inspired by the Islamic State, but so far there is no sign of significant, material ties.

Hapilon is still hiding out in the city under the protection of gunmen who are desperately trying to find a way to extricate him, said the Philippines' military chief, Gen. Eduardo Ano. 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. He also heads an alliance of at least 10 smaller militant groups, including the Maute, which has a presence in Marawi and was instrumental in fighting off government forces in this week's battles.

Another concern for the government was the discovery of Indonesian and Malaysian fighters with the Maute, which it said showed a domestic rebellion had expanded to become a far greater threat, driven by radical ideology.

"We desire to free Marawi City of those evil forces and make way for a peaceful Ramadan", Padilla said.

The United States regards Hapilon as one of the world's most unsafe terrorists and has offered a bounty of $5 million for his capture.

"This development validates a series of reports of atrocities committed by the militants earlier", Padilla said.

Hapilon, an Islamic preacher, is a commander of the Abu Sayyaf militant group who pledged allegiance to the Islamic State in 2014.

"But for this martial law and the consequences of martial law and the ramifications of martial law, I and I alone would be responsible, just do your job I will take care of the rest", Duterte said according to a president's office transcript.

Other reports by VgToday

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