MAR­TIAL LAW DE­CLARED IN MIN­DANAO

Duterte mulls putting whole coun­try un­der emer­gency as clashes con­tinue

New Straits Times - - Front Page - ILIGAN (The Philip­pines)

MIL­I­TANTS who trig­gered mar­tial law in the south when they ram­paged through a city are threat­en­ing to kill a priest and other hostages, the Catholic Church said yes­ter­day.

Pres­i­dent Ro­drigo Duterte im­posed mar­tial law across the south­ern re­gion of Min­danao on Tues­day af­ter the mil­i­tants, who de­clared al­le­giance to the Is­lamic State group, bat­tled with se­cu­rity forces and burnt build­ings.

Duterte warned the mar­tial law would be “harsh” and like a dic­ta­tor­ship in an ef­fort to quell not just the gun­men in Marawi, a mostly Mus­lim-pop­u­lated city of 200,000 peo­ple, but the ris­ing threat of IS-in­spired mil­i­tancy em­a­nat­ing from Min­danao.

The gun­men raided a church in Marawi and took the priest, Fa­ther Chito Suganob, plus a num­ber of peo­ple hostage, ac­cord­ing to the head of the Catholic Bish­ops’ Conference of Philip­pines, Arch­bishop Socrates Vil­le­gas.

“They have threat­ened to kill the hostages if the gov­ern­ment forces un­leashed against them are not re­called,” Vil­le­gas said.

The fight­ing erupted on Tues­day af­ter se­cu­rity forces raided a house where they be­lieved Is­nilon Hapi­lon, a leader of the in­fa­mous Abu Sayyaf gang and lo­cal head of IS, was hid­ing.

More than 100 gun­men re­sponded by burn­ing build­ings and con­duct­ing other di­ver­sion­ary tac­tics, ac­cord­ing to De­fence Sec­re­tary Delfin Loren­zana.

Pho­tos posted on so­cial me­dia by res­i­dents showed the gun­men walk­ing through the streets of Marawi and plac­ing black flags sim­i­lar to those used by IS.

Loren­zana said on Tues­day night that many gun­men were hid­ing in build­ings as snipers.

Thou­sands of res­i­dents fled Marawi, ac­cord­ing to a pho­tog­ra­pher at a mil­i­tary check­point near here, the next big­gest city about 40km away.

“We heard a lot of gun­fire and ex­plo­sions yes­ter­day. We hid in­side, we were too fright­ened to go out,” said No­raisa Duca, a Mus­lim res­i­dent, at the check­point.

The gun­men killed one po­lice­man and two soldiers on Tues­day, au­thor­i­ties said. They re­ported skir­mishes overnight in Marawi but it was un­clear how many mil­i­tants were left.

An­a­lysts said Hapi­lon had been try­ing to unite Filipino mil­i­tants who pro­fessed al­le­giance to IS. They in­cluded the Maute group, which was based near Marawi.

“Our fel­low Filipinos, do not be too scared,” Duterte said yes­ter­day from Moscow, where he had just be­gun an of­fi­cial visit that he abruptly ended to fly home and deal with the cri­sis.

Duterte also said he might im­pose mar­tial law through­out the na­tion. He said he was con­sid­er­ing im­pos­ing it through the central third of the Philip­pines known as the Visayas, be­cause the re­gion was close to Min­danao.

He then raised the prospect of the north­ern third of the Philip­pines, known as Lu­zon and home to the cap­i­tal of Manila, fall­ing un­der mar­tial law.

“If I think that IS has al­ready taken foothold also in Lu­zon, and ter­ror­ism is not re­ally far be­hind, I might de­clare mar­tial law through­out the coun­try to pro­tect the peo­ple,” he said. AFP

AGENCY PIX

Res­i­dents walk­ing past a mil­i­tary ar­moured per­son­nel car­rier yes­ter­day fol­low­ing Pres­i­dent Ro­drigo Duterte’s dec­la­ra­tion of mar­tial law in Davao City, Min­danao Is­land, on Tues­day.

Po­lice­men check­ing evac­uees from Marawi aboard a van at a check­point near the en­trance of Iligan City yes­ter­day.

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