Philippines Pounds Militants As Civilians Found Shot Dead


Despite the political turmoil Duterte's jokes are sure to illicit, he still has the more pressing matter of combatting what he calls a "wide-scale offensive on positions of Philippine troops in the city of Marawi".

"I have to rescue my grandfather even at the risk of my life", Khana-Anuar Marabur Jr. said Monday after police stopped him for speeding through a checkpoint. "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 Friday, according to a presidential office transcript. "This war is taking too long". But the recent violence has raised fears that extremism could be growing as smaller militant groups unify and align themselves with the Islamic State group. "Compared to the initial days, there has been increasingly less resistance from the militants within Marawi", he said, speaking by phone from the capital, Manila. "We found their bodies while conducting rescue operations (on Saturday)", regional military spokesman Lieutenant Colonel Jo-ar Herrera said.

He said some rebels had been caught trying to get into Iligan, but did not give details. Almost 100 people have died as the government tries to drive out ISIS-allied militants.

A signed note attached to one of the men indicated that the victims had "betrayed their faith", police officer Jamail Mangadang told the Philippine Star.

In an interview with CNN Philippines, the civilian body count included four men, three women and a child allegedly killed by terrorists, and found 300 meters away from the Mindanao State University.

The violence prompted President Rodrigo Duterte last week to declare 60 days of martial law in the southern Philippines, where a Muslim separatist rebellion has raged for decades.

Marawi is a mostly Muslim city.

The battle for Marawi began five days ago when the security forces failed to capture Isnilon Hapilon, believed to be the main IS leader in the Philippines.

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The gunmen planted black ISIL flags, took a priest and up to 14 other people hostage from a church, and set fire to buildings. There was no word on their condition.

"The bodies (found) consist of four males, three females and a child", Padilla said, adding that the discovery of the eight bodies "validates" reports that militants have indeed killed civilians.

All of the groups are inspired by the Islamic State group. Defence secretary Delfin Lorenzana told reporters that Hapilon has received funds from Isis.

The United States regards Hapilon as one of the world's most risky terrorists and has offered a bounty of US$5 million (S$6.92) for his capture. Government troops are in control of Marawi "except in certain areas" that militants hold, making "surgical air strikes" necessary, he said. Until today, nearly a week later, there are still conflicting reports on the Marawi crisis, on the Maute group and the AFP involvement, on the actual number of casualties and victims, and on the whole impact of military rule on the communities in Mindanao.

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

Trucks loaded with marines arrived to reinforce soldiers guarding deserted streets as helicopters circulated above the lakeside city surrounded by jungle-clad hills.

The Philippine media reported on Sunday that heavy fighting, explosions and airstrikes continued as troops sealed the city of Maute militants.