Philippine military seeks to secure troubled city as fighting eases

About 120 civilians were rescued from the hospital, the military said.

Archbishop Socrates Villegas, president of the Catholic Bishops' Conference of the Philippines, also said jihadi fighters had taken a priest and at least a dozen other people hostage. There were reports that the black IS banner had been hoisted over the city hall and the Amai Pakpak medical centre. It was blamed for a bombing in Duterte's home city of Davao in September past year, which killed 14 people and wounded dozens.

"Our city was so dark".

EXODUS. Residents continue to leave Marawi City. He told IWPR in a telephone interview that he and his family had fled the city on the evening of May 23, sensing that the crisis was far from over.

"I will not hesitate to do anything and everything to protect and preserve the Filipino nation", the president said. "It took me five hours to find an alternative route because the city was already on lockdown".

MFA said Singaporeans should eRegister so that they can be contacted if necessary. He himself fled to the adjacent town of Marantao. The city of Marawi was still largely sealed off Thursday, although automatic gunfire and explosions could be heard.

"There are well-grounded fears that some forces may carry out dirty operations to justify the extension and expansion of Duterte's martial law to cover the entire country", the CPP said soon after ordering guerrillas to intensify offensives against government forces.

Mr Lorenzana said IS leaders in the Middle East had ordered Hapilon to move off his tiny island base of Basilan and into more populated areas of the southern Philippines near Marawi "to increase the mass base" of IS.

It was also not known whether civilians had been killed or wounded, or how many rebels remained and how many had retreated.

"I believe almost half of the people there already left".

He said this when met by reporters who had accompanied the PPM delegation to meet the Philippines Maritime Police representative, Maritime 1st Special Operations Unit commander Police Supt Cenen A Cuaresma.

The two countries signed ten major pacts including an Agreement on Defense Cooperation (ADC) which will pave the way for closer military-to-military ties through enhanced intelligence-sharing, training and possible future joint exercises. Duterte, however, took a firmer step by declaring martial law across all of Mindanao. His spokesperson Ernesto Abella said that the president had taken the action to suppress "lawless violence and rebellion".

"To my countrymen who have experienced martial law, it would not be any different from what President Marcos did".

Duterte warned he may expand martial law nationwide, an unnerving development for many in the Philippines who remember the rule of longtime dictator Ferdinand Marcos. If you fight us, you will die.

Given the lawlessness of Duterte's "war on drugs", in which the police and their agents have been implicated in the cold-blooded killing of more than 7,000 suspected drug dealers and users, military restraint in Mindanao may be wishful thinking. If there is open defiance, you will die.

Duterte said on Wednesday that one of the policemen killed was similarly caught at a checkpoint set up by the militants, then beheaded.

Tuesday's declaration of martial law effectively replaced the civilian government in Mindanao with the armed forces.

Expanding the military's legal authority in these conflicts opens the door to increased human rights violations against civilians, including leftist activists, indigenous leaders, and environmental activists, who have always been targets of military abuses.

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