ISIS-linked militants invade Philippine city, behead police chief, kidnap priest and worshippers
Daesh-linked militants swept through a southern Philippine city, beheading a police chief, burning buildings, seizing a priest and his worshippers and raising the flag of Daesh, authorities said Wednesday, May 24. President Rodrigo Duterte, who had declared martial law across the southern third of the nation, warned he may expand it nationwide.
As details of the attack in Marawi city emerged, fears mounted that the nation could be falling into a growing list of countries grappling with the spread of influence from Daesh in Syria and Iraq.
The violence erupted Tuesday after the army raided the hideout of Isnilon Hapilon, a commander of the Abu Sayyaf militant group who has pledged allegiance to Daesh. He is on Washington's list of most-wanted terrorists with a $5 million reward for information leading to his capture.
On Wednesday, Marawi Bishop Edwin de la Pena said the militants forced their way into the Marawi Cathedral and seized a priest, 10 worshippers and three church workers.
Villegers said the gunmen are demanding the government recall its forces.
On Tuesday evening, Duterte declared martial rule for 60 days in the entire Mindanao region - home to 22 million people - and vowed to be "harsh."
While pursuing peace talks with two large rebel groups in the south, Duterte has ordered the military to destroy smaller extremist groups which have tried to align with the Daesh group.
At least one of those smaller groups, the Maute, was involved in the Marawi siege. It's one of less than a dozen new armed Muslim groups that have pledged allegiance to Daesh and formed a loose alliance, with Hapilon reportedly designated as the alliance's leader.
Political analyst Ramon Casiple said the Maute is a clan-based group with members in Marawi who came to Hapilon'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.
"It is difficult to root out because they are from there," he said. "The Mautes are embedded in the population."
The group has been blamed for a bombing that killed 15 people in southern Davao city, Duterte's hometown, last September and a number of attacks on government forces in Lanao, although it has faced setbacks from a series of military offensives.
Last month, troops backed by airstrikes killed dozens of Maute militants and captured their jungle camp near Lanao del Sur's Piagapo town. Troops found homemade bombs, grenades, combat uniforms and passports of suspected Indonesian militants in the camp.
News source: AP
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