Philippines: 'Foreigners' fighting with Isis-linked militants in Marawi

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The current firefight in Marawi city is more than a rebellion because we are dealing with an ideological and, worst, a religious problem which is Wahhabism, a kind of fanatical Islamism followed by Saudi Arabia that is being taught in Madrassas in Mindanao.

Military leaders say the Maute's motivation for taking the city was to raise its profile and earn recognition from Isis.

MARAWI, Philippines (AP) - Philippine forces found the bodies of what appeared to be eight executed civilians as authorities launched fresh airstrikes Sunday to drive militants linked to the Islamic State group out of a besieged southern city.

"Considering the network and alliance-building activities among terrorist groups, local criminals and lawless armed men, the siege of Marawi City is a vital cog in attaining their long-standing goal: absolute control over the entirety of Mindanao", Duterte wrote in his report, submitted to the two chambers of Congress on Thursday night.

At least 44 people have died in the fighting, including 31 militants and 11 soldiers. It was not immediately clear whether civilians were among the dead.

'We heard gunfire, although I'm not sure if it was the same people who were shot, ' he said at the scene.

Snipers fired on Friday afternoon at about 100 troops who were marching single-file uphill through one district of Marawi that the militants had previously controlled, according to journalists accompanying the soldiers.

An ambulance was seen speeding away from the fighting and soldiers said a captured militant was inside.

With fighting ongoing in Marawi, Mr Duterte said on Friday he was willing to talk to the militants. "And if you can not be convinced to stop fighting, so be it. Let's just fight". "But the objective of our Armed Forces is to clear the city at the soonest time possible", Padilla said.

"Right now, he is still inside (the city)", Gen. Eduardo Ano told The Associated Press. "I'm just praying that the bullets will not find its way to my house and hit us", he said as he left the city.

The trapped civilians were without food, and wanted the military to stop air strikes, he said, urging the military "to do a different approach".

He said some civilians refused to evacuate because they want to guard their homes, which is slowing down government operations. "We have to finish this".

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Solicitor General Jose Calida, Philippines' chief lawyer, said these foreign fighters had heeded a "clarion call" of IS to travel to Mindanao to put up a "wilayat" or IS province, if they could not go to fight in Iraq or Syria. Ano said the gunmen were prepared to fight due to their Ramadan attack plot.

Much of Marawi remains a no-go zone, but disturbing details have emerged.

The two other victims were employees of a state-run hospital seized by Islamist militants on the first day of the violence, police said.

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.

Maute militants flew an IS flag in one of the city's mosques a year ago, a local resident said, speaking on condition of anonymity, fearing for his safety. Several teachers, a priest and about a dozen parishioners were also reportedly taken as hostages.

The fighting erupted on Tuesday after security forces raided a house where they believed Isnilon Hapilon, a leader of the infamous Abu Sayyaf kidnap-for-ransom gang and Philippine head of IS, was hiding while seeking treatment for injuries suffered in a previous military raid.

All these groups are inspired by the Islamic State group, but so far there is no sign of significant, material ties.

Washington has offered a $5 million reward for information leading to Hapilon's capture, but he has proved elusive.

The violence is the latest in four decades of conflict across the southern third of the mostly Catholic Philippines, where a Muslim separatist rebellion has claimed more than 120,000 lives.

"We will fully comply with the directives of the President that martial law was declared to address radical Islamic terrorism and narco-terrorism in Mindanao".

Duterte has vowed to extinguish the threat of the militants, whom he has said belong to the local Maute terrorist group but are being backed by criminals in the area.

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