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Philippines pounds militants; civilians found shot dead

Philippines pounds militants; civilians found shot dead

Duterte on Tuesday imposed martial law in the Mindanao region, home to 20 million people, following deadly clashes in a mostly Muslim-populated city involving militants he said were trying to establish a caliphate for the Islamic State group.

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

Padilla said the ongoing military air strikes and military actions focus on freeing a still undetermined number of civilians trapped in the city's interiors.

Residents have been sending appeals for help via text message, but rescue teams have not been able to penetrate the districts where they are located, said Zia Alonto Adiong, spokesman for the local province of Lanao Del Sur. "They can't leave because they are afraid of running into checkpoints put up by the gunmen".

He also heads an alliance of at least 10 smaller militant groups, including the Maute, which has a heavy presence in Marawi and has been instrumental in fighting off government forces in the current battles. Some 2,000 people reportedly remain trapped as ISIS-linked Maute militants mercilessly kill "betrayers" who try to flee the city.

All the women were raped so during the first assault, because they retreated, the bodies they used as a cover, one of them was the corpse of the Australian woman lay minister. "The others were not so lucky", a visibly shocked Bandung said.

Maute militants flew an IS flag in one of the city's mosques a year ago, a local resident said, speaking on condition of anonymity, fearing for his safety.

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On Saturday, the military announced the start of the Holy month of Ramadan, that it would intensify the bombing campaign.

Earlier, several lawmakers said that there is no need for a joint session, and that it is unlikely for Congress to revoke the President's martial law declaration.

Meanwhile, an AFP reporter heard intense gunfire on Monday afternoon near the main university in Marawi, and saw smoke apparently from a bomb explosion rise up in the distance.

The violence began when dozens of gunmen went on a rampage throughout Marawi after security forces attempted to arrest Isnilon Hapilon, a veteran Filipino fighter regarded as the local leader of ISIL.

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

In the aftermath of ISIS declaring a "wide-scale offensive on positions of Philippine troops in the city of Marawi", Duterte launched a full scale attack against the militant group and was encouraged his troops to be unrestrained in their ruthlessness.

"We are using precision ammunition in our surgical air strikes", said another army spokesman, Colonal Edgard Arevalo.

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He said some of those who escaped were members of the Maute group. "They do not know what is happening on the ground", Duterte said Saturday on Jolo, a southern island that is under martial law.

A Muslim separatist rebellion in the southern Philippines has claimed more than 120,000 lives since the 1970s.

The group has around 260 armed followers, according to government estimates.

"In that sense, the CPP and NPA would be together with the Duterte government in opposing the Maute group and the Abu Sayyaf".

Philippine protesters hold anti-Martial Law signs as police keep watch during a demonstration outside the Armed Forces headquarters in Quezon City, east of Manila, on Monday.

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