Philippines President Duterte declares martial law on Mindanao island

The Philippine constitution says a president can only declare martial law for 60 days to stop an invasion or a rebellion.

Philippines President Rodrigo Duterte has cut short an official visit to Moscow after deadly clashes erupted between Filipino government troops and Islamist militants Tuesday in the southern city of Marawi.

The announcement came after security forces battled dozens of IS-linked gunmen in a built-up area of Marawi, a city of about 200,000 people in Mindanao, on Tuesday.

Mr. Duterte arrived in Moscow on May 22 for a four-day visit.

Many Filipinos are particularly sensitive about martial law, as the late Philippine dictator Ferdinand Marcos used it to detain and torture opponents from 1973 until 1981.

Duterte has also said he is willing to enforce martial law nationwide if it is needed to eradicate drugs in society. Duterte also bluntly warned the terrorists that he will be "harsh" in dealing with them.

Duterte skipped all activities lined up for his visit except the bilateral meeting with Putin, which was hastily moved a day earlier after he made a decision to fly back to the Philippines early Wednesday morning. So kayong mga kababayan ko, you've experienced martial law, it would not be any different from what President Marcos did.

He said they are still awaiting the President's report before they could roll up their sleeves and vote on the fate of his martial law declaration. State Department has offered up to $5 million for his capture for his alleged involvement in terrorist acts against USA nationals and other foreign nationals in the Philippines.

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Social media users in the city posted photos online that claimed to show residents attempting to evacuate the city Wednesday morning.

He said many were hiding in buildings as snipers, making it hard for security forces to combat them.

The militants had reportedly taken over a medical center and replaced the Philippines flag with a black, ISIS-style banner.

Authorities did not give any updates on the whereabouts of Hapilon.

The gunmen were suspected members of two armed groups - Abu Sayyaf and Maute - which have pledged allegiance to Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL, also known as ISIS), Herrera said. The United States lists it as a terrorist organisation.

Brigadier General Rolando Bautista, commander of the Philippines' First Infantry Division, said security forces were trying to locate the militants.

Mindanao is home to a number of Muslim rebel groups seeking more autonomy.

While pursuing peace talks with two large Muslim rebel groups in the south of the predominantly Roman Catholic nation, Duterte has ordered the military to destroy smaller extremist groups which have tried to align with the Islamic State group.

(Copyright © 2015. All Rights Reserved.)
 
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