Philippines troops rescue 78 hostages, kills 13 ISIS-linked terrorists

“His capture and that of his companions violates every norm of civilized conflict”, said Villegas. Militants called in reinforcements and quickly overpowered the authorities.

Five government soldiers and 13 militants were killed during the raid, national military spokesman Colonel Edgard Arevalo said.

The retired policeman said he and his wife had been texting and calling each other since the violence erupted Tuesday.

They reported further skirmishes overnight in Marawi but on Wednesday afternoon it was unclear how many militants were still in the city or if they had escaped into nearby mountains and forests. She quoted another official as saying Marawi was like “a ghost town”.

But martial law is a sensitive issue for many in the Philippines, where former President Ferdinand Marcos used it to detain and torture opponents for almost 20 years. The Philippines is Asia’s largest Roman Catholic nation, but its southern region has a large Muslim minority. During the nine years of martial law under Marcos, police and troops tortured, abducted and killed thousands of people who were critical of the dictatorship, according to rights groups and historians.

Hapilon, an Arabic-speaking Islamic preacher known for his expertise in commando assaults, is a commander of the Abu Sayyaf militant group. Military chief of staff Gen. Eduardo Ano said the militants erected Islamic State flags at several locations.

“We will conduct house-to-house clearing and do everything to remove the threat there”. “We can do that easily”, he said, but added it was more hard in an urban setting because of the need to avoid civilian casualties.

Maute snipers and booby traps were hampering operations, which the army said could last three more days.

Intense gunfighting could be heard constantly throughout the day, according to an AFP reporter in the city, and the military said it had dropped bombs on residential neighbourhoods.

“Malaysian, Indonesians from Singapore and other foreign jihadists”, said Solicitor General Jose Calida in a press conference with Palace officials and the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) in Davao City.

Islamic State (Isis) claimed responsibility for the rampage via its Amaq news agency.

Trump was widely criticized by members of both parties for praising Duterte on the call for his handling of drug problems in his country, which has included the extrajudicial killing of thousands of drug users and dealers, and for inviting the controversial leader to meet with him in the White House.

But a US administration official insisted it was not a reward to Duterte or an endorsement of his policies but a decision that engagement with the Philippines was better than withdrawal which could “intensify bad behavior” by Duterte. The Philippine leader responded that their North Korean counterpart’s “mind is not working and he might just go insane one moment”.

Besides the Abu Sayyaf, another, smaller militant group – the Maute – is heavily involved in the Marawi siege.

Hapilon has sworn allegiance to Islamic State leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi.

Meanwhile, a local resident who requested anonymity said most residents concurred with the military command, and moved to the cities of Zamboanga, Pagadian and Cotabato, about 10 to 12 hours away from Marawi.

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