Mil­i­tants be­siege Philip­pine city

The Hamilton Spectator - - CANADA & WORLD - JIM GOMEZ AND TERESA CERO­JANO

ILI­GAN CITY, PHILIPPINES — Is­lamic State group-linked mil­i­tants swept through a south­ern Philip­pine city, be­head­ing a po­lice chief, burn­ing build­ings, seiz­ing a Catholic pri­est and his wor­ship­pers and rais­ing the black flag of ISIL, author­i­ties said Wed­nes­day. Pres­i­dent Ro­drigo Duterte, who had de­clared mar­tial law across the south­ern third of the na­tion, warned he may ex­pand it na­tion­wide.

At least 21 peo­ple have died in the fight­ing, of­fi­cials said.

As de­tails of the at­tack in Marawi City emerged, fears mounted that the largest Ro­man Catholic na­tion in Asia could be fall­ing into a grow­ing list of coun­tries grap­pling with the spread of in­flu­ence from the Is­lamic State group in Syria and Iraq.

The vi­o­lence erupted Tues­day af­ter the army raided the hide­out of Is­nilon Hapi­lon, a com­man­der of the Abu Sayyaf mil­i­tant group who has pledged al­le­giance to ISIL. He is on Wash­ing­ton’s list of most-wanted ter­ror­ists with a $5-mil­lion re­ward for in­for­ma­tion lead­ing to his cap­ture.

The mil­i­tants called for re­in­force­ments and around 100 armed men en­tered Marawi, a mostly Mus­lim city of 200,000 peo­ple on the south­ern is­land of Min­danao, De­fence Sec­re­tary Delfin Loren­zana said.

“We are in a state of emer­gency,” Duterte said Wed­nes­day af­ter he cut short a trip to Moscow and flew back to Manila. “I have a se­ri­ous prob­lem in Min­danao and the ISIS foot­prints are ev­ery­where.”

He de­clared mar­tial rule for 60 days in the en­tire Min­danao re­gion — home to 22 mil­lion peo­ple — and vowed to be “harsh.”

“If I think that you should die, you will die,” he said.

“If you fight us, you will die. If there is open de­fi­ance, you will die. And if it means many peo­ple dy­ing, so be it.”

But he said he would not al­low abuses and that law-abid­ing cit­i­zens had noth­ing to fear.

Duterte said a local po­lice chief was stopped at a mil­i­tant check­point and be­headed, and added that he may de­clare mar­tial law na­tion­wide if he be­lieves the group has taken a foothold.

AARON FAVILA, THE AS­SO­CI­ATED PRESS

Philip­pine Pres­i­dent Ro­drigo Duterte warned that he’ll be harsh in en­forc­ing mar­tial law to deal with mil­i­tants who at­tacked Marawi City.

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