Foreign fighters among militants in Philippines

In a visit to the 2nd Mechanized Brigade in Iligan City on Friday, Lorenzana reiterated President Rodrigo Duterte's instructions to be harsh to terrorists.

Political analyst Ramon Casiple said the Maute is a clan-based group with members in Marawi who came to Hapnilon's assistance, with some directly assisting in the fighting and others fanning out to different parts of the city, setting up checkpoints and burning some buildings and taking hostages from the cathedral.

Authorities said the militants had killed 19 civilians in Marawi, a mostly Muslim-populated city of 200,000 people.

Clashes erupted on Tuesday as the military moved to hunt down Abu Sayyaf leader Isnilon Hapilon, who was sighted in Marawi City. Their condition was not known. Residents said the militants called to the people from the streets and urged them to join ISIS.

President Rodrigo Duterte declared martial law across the southern third of the nation - home to some 22 million people - and warned he may expand it nationwide.

A woman touches an image of Jesus Christ shortly after attending a mass for victims of the recent attack in Marawi by Muslim militants linked to the Islamic State group and also for extrajudicial killings inside a church in Man.

Herrera asserted that police intelligence suggested Hapilon remained within Marawi's city limits, and army operations had not killed any civilians.

"I saw two jets swoop down and fire at rebel positions repeatedly", Alexander Mangundatu, a security guard, told The Associated Press in Marawi as a plume of black smoke billowed in the distance.

I think we can all agree that an end to their suffering is the outcome we all hope for.

"The objective of our armed forces is to clear the city at the soonest time as possible", Padilla said.

Aside from fighting government forces, these terrorist elements are also helping lawless groups in the country in the manufacture of improvised explosive devices and bombs.

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"But that's fine as long as civilians are not hurt", Padilla said.

The Philippines had until this year denied it was home to groups with Islamic State ties.

Army tanks packed with soldiers have rolled into a southern Philippine city to try to restore control after militants linked to Islamic State group launched a violent siege.

"If I think that you should die, you will die", he said Wednesday.

Ano also said foreign fighters were believed to be inside, but he was more cautious.

Reports say villagers are too afraid to move the bodies because terrorists are still in the area.

In a sign of the confusion over events inside the city, a local police chief told the AP on Friday that he was fine - two days after Duterte told journalists the police chief had been beheaded by militants. He is a commander of the Abu Sayyaf militant group and was wounded by a military airstrike in January.

In a sign that the long-standing problem of militancy in the south could be expanding, Solicitor General Jose Calida said foreigners were fighting alongside the gunmen in Marawi, including Indonesians and Malaysians.

However, with the declaration of martial law and the continuous fighting to clear the city of Maute militants, that break has had to be deferres.

"We beg every Filipino to pray fervently for Fr. Chito and other hostages", said Villegas, head of the Catholic Bishops' Conference of the Philippines (CBCP).

The violence flared in Marawi on Tuesday afternoon after a botched raid by security forces on a hideout of the Maute, a militant group that has pledged allegiance to Islamic State.


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