Philippines official: Terror suspect still in besieged city

Philippine forces hunt top Islamist militant in city

The Maute 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.

On Friday, Duterte ordered his troops to crush the militants, warning that the country is at a grave risk of "contamination" by the Islamic State group.

Hapilon is still hiding out in the city under the protection of gunmen who are desperately trying to find a way to "extricate" him, the country's military chief said.

Smoke rises following airstrikes by Philippine Air Force to retake control of Marawi city, southern Philippines, on Saturday. Army tanks packed with soldiers rolled into the southe. Eleven months into this presidency, I've come to learn that even when he appears to be joking, there's always an undercurrent of intent in what the President says.

Tuesday's operation turned bloody and President Rodrigo Duterte imposed martial law across the southern region of Mindanao, hours after IS-loyalists went on a shooting rampage in city streets, in response to the raid on the IS-safe house for Hapilon. The army said 11 soldiers and 31 militants have been killed.

Malaysian lecturer-turned-militant Mahmud Ahmad could soon be the leader of the offshoot of terrorist group ISIS in the southern Philippines, The Star reported yesterday, quoting intelligence sources.

"We are deeply disturbed that the Communist Party of the Philippines made a false reading of the intents of President Duterte in placing Mindanao under Martial Law", Bello said in a statement.

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AFP Chief Gen. Eduardo Año said government forces were going after Abu Sayyaf leader Isnilon Hapilon in Marawi, while the members of the Maute group in the city's outskirts tried to help the leader.

Romeo Enriquez said he is fine, adding that there may have been confusion because a former Malabang police chief was killed in the fighting - but he was not beheaded.

"One, to ensure the safety of lives, second to ensure operational security and ensure the safety of our men in uniform who are fighting, and for other national security considerations", he said.

There are also those from the Middle East in Marawi City or on the outskirts, the official said.

Lt. Col. Jo-ar Herrera says the helicopters are firing rockets in "a precision attack".

The violence erupted Tuesday night when authorities launched an unsuccessful raid to capture Hapilon.

On Thursday, Duterte assured government troops that he "alone" would be responsible for the "consequences" of his martial law declaration in the region.

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As details of the attack in Marawi city emerged, fears mounted that the largest Catholic nation in Asia could be falling into a growing list of countries grappling with the spread of influence from the Islamic State group in Syria and Iraq.

At the Mass in Manila, nun Mary John Mananzan called on people to pray and noted that hostages had been taken, including a priest from the cathedral in Marawi.

He also said the suspension of the writ applies only to a person judicially charged for rebellion or invasion, and such person must be charged within three days; outside of that, habeas corpus-the rule that a person must be physically presented to a court of law for trial-must persist. He said this amid concerns that martial rule in Mindanao would lead to human rights abuses similar to what thousands suffered during the Marcos regime, when many victims were tortured and raped.

Galvez said that the amred forces have been constrained to launching airstikes against identified and specific targets occupied by the Maute group militants.

Maute terrorists also broke into two prisons and freed more than 100 jihadists, now helping kill police, soldiers, and civilians in the city.

The US has placed a US$5 million (RM23 million) bounty for Hapilon's capture who they described to be the world's most risky terrorist.

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Anywhere along this line, there could be some gusty winds 35-45mph, locally heavy rain , and perhaps some small hail. Metro-east residents should prepare for afternoon showers and a high around 65 degrees on Wednesday .

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