Army trucks roll deeper into Philippine city

Mujiv Hataman, governor of the Autonomous Region in Mindanao, said militants freed 107 prisoners, among them Maute rebels.

"I will not hesitate to do anything and everything to protect and preserve the Filipino nation", warned Duterte, in acknowledgement of growing public expectation to address the unfolding crisis in his home island and fears the instability could spread to the main island of Luzon.

The morning after Duterte declared martial law, the CPP said "the New People's Army (NPA) must be ready to accelerate the recruitment of new Red fighters as Duterte's martial law convinces more and more people to take up arms against the rotten system" and "plan and carry out more tactical offensives across Mindanao and the entire archipelago".

Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte on Tuesday declared martial law in the south because of the militants' siege of the city.

(AP Photo/Bullit Marquez). Residents are seen on tops of vehicles as they continue to flee three days after Muslim militants lay siege in Marawi city in the southern Philippines, Thursday, May 25, 2017.

Human rights experts have expressed concern about possible abuses by the military and police in places under martial rule and say the conduct of security forces during Mr Duterte's deadly anti-drugs campaign has not inspired confidence.

Nearly 9,000 people, many small-time users and dealers, have been killed in the Philippines since Duterte took office on June 30.

"By virtue of the powers vested in me by the constitution and by law, I have to declare martial law in the Mindanao group of islands for a period that exceeding 60 days effective as of May 23, 2017", said Duterte.

Duterte said Wednesday he would be "harsh" and his version of martial law would include warrantless arrests and searches, along with curfews in some provinces.

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Whatever the case, President Duterte has shown that he is serious in his threats to declare martial law and that it is not mere rhetoric.

The military said it was hunting Isnilon Hapilon, an Abu Sayyaf leader who has been named the Philippine head of IS.

The United States regards Hapilon as one of the world's most unsafe terrorists, offering a bounty of US$5 million (RM21.39 million) for his capture. "People they consider as "infidels", whether Christians or Muslims, are also targets of opportunity, whether they are found in Marawi, Cagayan de Oro, Davao, Zamboanga, Cebu, Manila, and other cities", he said in a statement.

Thirteen militants and seven members of the security forces have so far been killed and 33 troops wounded in the fighting, according to the military. However he said the bodies of only two militants had been recovered and the other reported deaths could not be independently verified.

A Philippine Roman Catholic church leader says a priest and several churchgoers have been taken hostage from a cathedral by gunmen in a southern city.

Two military helicopters flew above Marawi and armoured tanks churned through its streets as automatic rifle firing could be heard today, according to an AFP photographer in the city. There were no reports of major clashes yesterday.

The Abu Sayyaf is infamous for kidnapping foreigners and killing them if ransoms are not paid. Between the two, the Maute group is more risky as it represents the ISIS Islamic extremists here in our country.

But on Thursday, Solicitor-General Jose Calida also hinted it would also target "groups rebelling against the government".

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