Duterte declares martial law in Philippines amid terror clashes

By Ed Adamczyk and Doug G. Ware   |   May 23, 2017 at 5:35 PM
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May 23 (UPI) -- President Rodrigo Duterte of the Philippines on Tuesday declared a partial state of martial law in the Pacific island nation after two soldiers and a police officer were killed in clashes with terror insurgents.

Duterte made the declaration for the island of Mindanao, in the nation's south.

Troops and police officers were engaged in fights with pro-Islamic State Maute insurgents on Tuesday in Marawi City, the Philippine army said. The scene of the firefight was near police headquarters and the campus of Mindanao State University, officials said.

The clash was initiated by the army, who saw Abu Sayyaf leader Isnilon Hapilon in the vicinity, with about 15 followers, Philippine Army spokesman Col. Jo-ar Herara said.

By Tuesday night, the city of Marawi was under complete lockdown.

Maute is a radical Islamist group based in Lanao del Sur which, with Abu Sayyaf, has conducted terrorist attacks in the Philippines for several years. Both are aligned with the Islamic State, also identified as ISIS, ISIL and Daesh. At least 50 Maute members have been killed in isolated clashes with Philippine police and soldiers in the past five months. The total number of casualties in Tuesday's fight was not immediately known.

Earlier Tuesday, members of the Philippine army searched Marawi City for Hapilon and his party when the gunfire began. Armored vehicles were brought in, neighborhoods were locked down and two aircraft of the Philippine air force dropped bombs on selected targets.

The incidents in Marawi City, whose population of about 200,000 is largely Muslim, came two days before the start of the fasting month of Ramadan.

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