MARTIAL LAW DECLARED IN MINDANAO
Duterte mulls putting whole country under emergency as clashes continue
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
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.