Philippines Launches Surgical Air Strikes to Flush Out Maute Group

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. "In numerous instances where their camps have been overtaken by our troops, there is evidence of the presence of drug paraphernalia, particularly with this Maute Group, such that our soldiers have been reporting that they've been fighting suicidally, meaning, without any regard for their own safety and like zombies". He has also claimed to have "cousins" who support the Islamic State and reached out to other Muslim groups, like the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF), in the hope of keeping them from building alliances with Abu Sayyaf and Maute. Gen Padilla as saying.

Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte declared martial law on Tuesday across Mindanao, which makes up roughly one-third of the country and is home to 20 million people.

Padilla also said they have yet to verify if the foreigners are directly connected to the terrorist group ISIS. But there are fears the expanded powers could further embolden a leader who already has been accused of allowing extrajudicial killings of thousands of people in his crackdown on illegal drugs.

"We are ready to issue rice to relief-giving agencies such as the Department of Social Welfare and Development, Philippine Red Cross, and local government units anytime they would need it to distribute to the affected residents", said NFA administrator Jason Laureano Y. Aquino.

They said six soldiers died in Thursday's fighting.

Police Chief Romeo Enriquez said there may have been confusion because his predecessor in Malabang, a town near Marawi, was killed in the fighting on Tuesday, although he was not beheaded. Troops found homemade bombs, grenades, combat uniforms and passports of suspected Indonesian militants in the camp, the military said. Enriquez has been in the job for about two months.

Although much of the city is sealed off, disturbing details were trickling out. Last year, he was reportedly chosen to lead the Islamic State group branch in Southeast Asia.

ARMM governor condemns Maute attack in Marawi City
Philippines' Duterte warns terrorists: 'I'll be harsh'

Meanwhile, 18 members of the Maute group were killed in fresh gun battle as government troops cleared two bridges heading towards Bangulo.

The southern Philippines has been troubled by decades-long Muslim separatist uprisings in the predominantly Catholic nation.

"We believe that it is not an answer to the problem of armed conflict in Mindanao".

Herrera said they will continue to go after the high-value targets until they are sure that Marawi City is free of the terrorists.

Mr Duterte warned he may expand martial law nationwide, an unnerving development for many in the Philippines who lived through the rule of late dictator Ferdinand Marcos.

Shortly after the declaration, the CPP ordered its supposedly 4,000-strong armed wing, the New People's Army (NPA), to conduct more offensives as a way of resisting martial law.

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