May 28 (UPI) -- The bodies of 16 people thought to be killed by Islamist militants were found in the southern part of the Philippines, the nation's military said Sunday.
Islamist militants and Filipino soldiers have been fighting for control of Marawi City since Monday, prompting thousands to flee in an effort to escape the violence.
The government said 95 people have died during the fighting, including 61 militants, and 15 soldiers and police officers.
The fighting began after government forces attacked militants said to be protecting Isnilon Hapilon, the leader of Abu Sayyaf, a gang that kidnaps people for ransom.
The 16 bodies were found in two groups, said Brig. Gen. Restituto Padilla, a military spokesman.
Eight found near Mindanao State University were four men, three women and a child, Padilla said.
The other eight were discovered in a ditch at the edge of the city with their hands tied and gunshot wounds to the head, the television station ABS-CBN reported. A cardboard sign near them said, "Munafik," which can mean "hypocrite" or "traitor."
The eight men had worked at a bakery and were attempting to join refugees heading north to nearby Iligan City when they were stopped by Maute gunmen, residents said.
CNN sources said their vehicle was stopped by about 20 armed men near a bridge in Mapandi, Marawi City.
Christians were traveling with Muslims, who had tried to protect them by teaching them lines from Muslim prayers. They were reportedly asked to recite Muslim prayers. Those not able to recite them were taken by the armed men.
"This development validates a series of reports of atrocities committed by the militants earlier," Padilla said.
More than 30,000 residents from Marawi City were at evacuation centers and another 42,000 had fled to relatives' homes outside the city.
On Friday, Duterte had joked to troops that they could rape three women without any consequences.
"For this martial law and the consequences of martial law and the ramifications of martial law, I and I alone would be responsible; just do your jobs," he said. "I will go to jail for you. If you raped three, I will own up to it."
Ernesto Abella, Duterte's spokesman, defended the president's comment, saying that Duterte was attempting to show his support for the soldiers.
"In Iligan, he gave his full support to the men and women in uniform, taking complete responsibility for their actions, even exaggeratedly describing crimes like taking a fourth wife," Abella said.
Etta Rosales, who was arrested, tortured and raped under martial law during the rule of Ferdinand Marcos, blasted Duterte.
"He appears to exhibit the mind-set of a criminal, a woman hater, a person who thrills and derives dark pleasure from attacking treasured norms and values of families and societies," she said. "Thus he has no tolerance for human rights, which stand in the way of authoritarianism."