5 soldiers killed, 31 others wounded in Marawi clashes

Philippines security forces continue to battle the Abu Sayyaf group which has kidnapped hundreds since the early 1990s to extract ransomsMore

The Islamic State (IS) has owned up to attacks in Marawi City, Lanao del Norte, that prompted President Rodrigo Duterte to place the entire Mindanao island under martial law late Tuesday and forced thousands to flee the city on Wednesday for fear of being caught in the crossfire between government troops and the terrorist Maute Group.

The Maute group is one of less than a dozen new armed Muslim groups that have pledged allegiance to the Islamic State and formed a loose alliance with Hapilon reportedly designated as the alliance's leader.

The militants took priest Teresito Soganub, professor Maria Luisa Colina, parish secretary Wendelyn Mayormita, two working students and some parishioners on Tuesday, said bishop Edwin dela Pena of Marawi Prelature.

The Philippine bishops' president said the abductors have threatened to kill the hostages if the government forces unleashed against them are not recalled.

The priest, Father Chito, and the others had no role in the conflict, Archbishop Villegas said.

Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte abruptly left Moscow to deal with a crisis at home sparked by the extremist siege on the city, where militants burned buildings overnight and are saidto have taken hostages.

Gunfire erupted between Philippine security forces and militants in Marawi City in the mid-afternoon Tuesday.

Fires raged in Marawi but the military and the city's mayor said the situation was now under control.

He said the group erected Islamic State flags at several locations.




Isnilon Hapilon, a leader of the infamous Abu Sayyaf kidnapping-for-ransom gang who Daesh (the so-called IS) has appointed its Philippine chief, was believed to be among those fighting police and soldiers in Marawi city, regional military spokeswoman Captain Jo-Ann Petinglay said.

"We are in a state of emergency", Duterte said after landing in Manila from a visit to Moscow, adding that skirmishes were continuing.

Chico Dimaro Usman, a resident of Marawi City, posted pictures of black-clad armed men walking the streets of the city. He said his office was able to validate reports that the Maute group has five hostages; however, the names were not immediately available.

"Anyone now holding a gun, confronting government with violence, my orders are spare no one, let us solve the problems of Mindanao once and for all", said Duterte, who is from the island, after cutting short a visit to Russian Federation and returning to Manila.

Policemen watches vehicles at a checkpoint in Manila, Philippines, Wednesday, May 24, 2017 as the Philippine National Police is placed under full alert status following the declaration of martial law in Mindanao southern Philippines.

The Catholic church said militants were using Christians and a priest as human shields and had contacted cardinals with threats to execute hostages unless government troops withdrew.

The government blamed the Maute for a bombing in a marketplace in Duterte's hometown of Davao in September 2016 which killed 14 people and wounded dozens.

A senior military official has claimed to have killed or wounded an undetermined number of militants.

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