Published: Tue, June 06, 2017
Global Media | By Abel Hampton

Philippines forces hit militants; civilians wave white flags

Philippines forces hit militants; civilians wave white flags

Philippine government forces launched "precision attacks" Thursday to clear militants linked to the Islamic State group from a southern city that has been under siege since a raid to capture a militant on the USA list of most-wanted terrorists failed.

Residents flee three days after Muslim militants lay siege in Marawi city in southern Philippines Thursday, May 25, 2017. He estimated that the operation to drive them out could take about a week.

Philippine intelligence indicates the two groups from different parts of Mindanao are connected, through Isnilon Hapilon, a leader of a radical faction of Abu Sayyaf.

FilepicAnother Malaysian, identified as former Universiti Malaya lecturer Dr Mahmud Ahmad is also believed to be active on the ground in Marawi City, reportedly working with Basilan Abu Sayaff leader Isninon Hapilon to push for the creation of the Islamic State in South East Asia, The Star reports.

Padilla said 11 soldiers, two policemen and 31 militants had been confirmed killed in the fighting, which has involved the military bombing buildings where the militants have been hiding.

President Rodrigo Duterte responded by declaring martial law throughout his native island of Mindanao.

He gave his troops a free hand to wrest control of Marawi, saying: "You can arrest any person, search any house without warrant".

Duterte has vowed to extinguish the threat of the fighters, whom he has said belong to the banned local Maute group but are being backed by criminals in the area.

"If you fight us, you will die".

Hapilon, an Arabic-speaking Islamic preacher known for his expertise in commando assaults, is at the nexus of several militant groups that are trying to merge into a more powerful force.

Hundreds of civilians had sheltered in a military camp in Marawi City as troops helped clear the few remaining people from streets where smoke lingered in the air.

"Together we pray for an end to terrorism that falsely claims to advance Islam and seeks to subjugate our land to the brutal IS", Abella said in a statement.

Battles between Philippine security forces and Muslim insurgent groups have raged for years, but the fighting made global news this week when Duterte, cutting short a trip to Russian Federation, declared martial law across Mindanao, an area home to more than 20 million people.

Philippine military spokesman Brig-Gen Restituto Padilla said six foreign fighters were believed to have been killed in the Marawi fighting, including Malaysians, Indonesians and another nationality which he did not specify.

Duterte warned he may expand martial law nationwide, an unnerving development for many in the Philippines who lived through the rule of late dictator Ferdinand Marcos.

Ano predicted that the military operation will take about a week as soldiers go house to house to clear the city of militants.

Security experts say Mindanao could become a draw for regional extremists and the Maute's alignment with Islamic State and its ability to take on the military could support moves to secure funding and recruit foreign and local fighters.

It is also estimated that there are between 200 to 500 militants in Mindanao.

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

He said to the troops: "We will win, right?"

Hapilon is on Washington's list of most-wanted terrorists and has a $5 million bounty on his head.

The southern Philippine region has always been a hotbed of fundamentalist activity, including terror groups like Abu Sayyaf.

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