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Philippine president Duterte orders troops to crush militants

Philippine president Duterte orders troops to crush militants

When the raid failed, dozens of gunmen came out on to the streets of Marawi, reportedly flying IS flags.

President Rodrigo Duterte has delivered on his threat to impose martial law on Mindanao, the country's second-largest island, to stop the spread of radical Islam.

The Western Mindanao Command (Westmincom) confirmed that among of those who were killed include 31 Maute terrorists, 11 soldiers, and two police officers.

The city of about 200,000 people was under attack by Muslim militants and people were packing into vehicles to flee the violence Thursday as army trucks rolled into the city center.

Hapilon, the leader of the Abu Sayyaf Group, had been appointed emir of all ISIS-affiliated forces in the Philippines by ISIS leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi a year ago, Gunaratna said.

He gave his troops a free hand to wrest control of Marawi. But human rights groups have expressed fears that martial law powers could further embolden Duterte, whom they have accused of allowing extrajudicial killings of thousands of people in his crackdown on illegal drugs.

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Philippines President Rodrigo Duterte, giving a pep talk to his troops in the country's restive south, exhorted the soldiers to go all out in fighting Islamic militants, but he said he's willing to sit down with his enemies and talk peace. "If you fight us, you will die. We would be much higher now in the ranking of nations, in the appreciation of other nations for the Philippines, if we did not have martial law", he said. "I'm just praying that the bullets will not find its way to my house and hit us".

He said Hapilon suffered a stroke after a government airstrike wounded him in January.

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

"We have many fears but at present, we simply do not have solid and sufficient facts to absolutely reject the declaration of Martial law as morally reprehensible", Quevec said in a pastoral guidance. "We want to finish this problem as soon as possible".

But he said six foreign fighters are believed to have been killed in the Marawi fighting, including Malaysians, Indonesians and another nationality which he did not specify.

He said to the troops: "We will win, right?" One local police chief has told reporters that he is fine - two days after Mr Duterte announced he had been beheaded by militants.

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Enriquez said the former chief was fatally shot in a clash with the extremists on Tuesday outside a Marawi hospital after violence took hold on when the rebels descended on the city. The military was investigating reports about nine people murdered at a checkpoint the militants had set up, authorities said. Authorities were working to determine the condition of a Catholic priest and worshippers who were taken hostage by gunmen earlier this week.

The Maute Group started from the shabu business until they were recruited by Isnilon Hapilon, an Abu Sayaff leader who professed to be recognized by the ISIS, Duterte said. The group, formed in 2012, pledged allegiance to the Islamic State in 2015.

At a news conference in Davao City, Philippine Solicitor General Jose Calida said Duterte "has ample factual basis" for declaring martial law.

"It is clear that the number of men from both Indonesia and Malaysia who have travelled to Mindanao has increased over the past year", Sidney Jones, director of the Institute for Policy Analysis of Conflict in Jakarta, told the BBC.

"There are certain foreign elements who have been in the country for a long time aiding these (local) terrorists", he said.

But he has also indicated that martial law could be expanded to the rest of the country if he felt it was necessary, a potentially controversial move in a nation that spent nearly a decade under martial law under Ferdinand Marcos.

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