The southern Philippines are under fire as security forces come to blows with Islamic militants, causing the President to call martial law.
ISIS sympathizers are thought to be responsible for setting three major fires in the city of Marawi, at local institutions including the City Jail, Dansalan College, and Saint Mary’s Church. Filipino forces responded by launching, “a surgical operation to neutralize the group who is planning terrorism in Marawi,” said Col. Jo-ar Herrera, spokesperson for the Army’s 1st Infantry Division. “Our troops were met by bullets from the Maute group, triggering a fierce firefight.” The 2 a.m. shootout was followed by air support at around 3:30 a.m. which dropped bombs on targets thought to house ISIS suspects.
“We are not okay here,” a local resident posted on Facebook. “There are buildings on fire in the town and we are not hearing any fire truck sirens or what. And now lights are out and we are hearing gunshots again.”
As reported in the Daily Caller:
One police officer and two soldiers, according to the most recent reports, were killed in the shootout. Around a dozen others were injured in the fight. Many of the militants were also killed in the conflict.
In response to the crisis in Marawi, President Rodrigo Duterte cut his trip to Russia short and declared martial law for all of Mindanao, a largely Muslim area in the southern Philippines, for a period of 60 days.
“The whole of Marawi city is blacked out, there is no light, and there are Maute snipers all around,” Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana said in a live broadcast. “We will conduct house-to-house clearing and do everything to remove the threat there,” military chief of staff General Eduardo Ano told reporters, noting that there are concerns about civilian casualties.