On Tuesday, Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte made the decision to place the island of Mindanao under martial law after a raid to capture a terror suspect in Marawi city failed, causing violence to erupt and ISIS-linked extremists to siege the city.
The 22 million residents of the island will be under military rule for at least the next 60 days, though Duterte said he would consider extending it to the entire country should the threat spread. The president cut short a trip to Moscow to deal with the unfolding crisis, during which Muslim extremists captured buildings—including a Catholic Church—and took hostages.
As the Associated Press reported, Philippine defense secretary Delfin Lorenzana said a gun fight was sparked after troops raided the hideout of a top terrorist suspect in Marawi on Tuesday. The militants called for reinforcements from an allied group, the Maute, and dozens of gunmen overtook the city hall, a hospital, and a jail. Additionally, the extremists burned a Catholic church, a college, and several homes in an attack that left a police officer beheaded, five soldiers dead, and dozens wounded.
“We are in a state of emergency,” Duterte said Wednesday as he returned to Manila. “I have a serious problem in Mindanao and the ISIS footprints are everywhere.”
The Catholic bishop in Marawi, Edwin de la Pena, told the AP that militants forced their way into the Marawi Cathedral and seized a Catholic priest, Father Chito, 10 worshippers, and three church workers. Archbishop Socrates Villegas, president of the Catholic Bishops Conference of the Philippines, said the hostages were merely innocent bystanders.
“He was not a combatant. He was not bearing arms. He was a threat to none,” Villegas said of Chito. “His capture and that of his companions violates every norm of civilized conflict.”
Military chief of staff Gen. Eduardo Ano told the AP late Tuesday that troops had sealed off major entry and exit points in Marawi, where Islamic State flags could be seen flying over several buildings. On Wednesday, Military spokesman Col. Edgard Arevalo shared better news: 13 militants had been killed and his soldiers had cleared the insurgents from the city hall, Mindanao State University, and a hospital, where about 120 civilians were rescued.
Provincial Vice Gov. Mamintal Adiong said late Wednesday that more troops had arrived in the city, which was dark because 80 percent was without electrical power. The city was described by other officials as a “ghost town.”
“Hopefully, the military will be able to control the situation in Marawi city by tomorrow,” Adiong said.
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