Philippine forces fight to retake city besieged by ISIS linked terrorists

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The unprecedented attack of the ISIS-backed militant group Maute Group in Marawi City in Mindanao, the Philippines, could mark the beginning of a new threat to Southeast Asian maritime security.

There is division of laboUr, according to the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP).

A displaced resident of Marawi city swings her baby at an evacuation center in Saguiaran township, near the besieged city of Marawi, Lanao del Sur province Sunday, May 28, 2017 in southern Philippines. Residents have fled the city by the tens of thousands over the past few days.

"It is not true that half the city is controlled by the rebels".

Nearby Iligan City was in lockdown over fears that Maute fighters had sneaked out of Marawi by blending in with civilians.

Military officials say it is not possible to estimate the number of Maute fighters - some reports have put the number at over 100, but others say there could be about 1,000.

"We believe they're now low on ammunition and food". In recent days, gunmen have managed to fend off attack helicopters, armored vehicles and scores of soldiers.

However he said the bombings would continue in whichever areas the militants were hiding.

President Rodrigo Duterte declared martial law in the south through mid-July after the militants went on the deadly rampage in Marawi, a lakeside city dotted with hundreds of mosques, following an unsuccessful military raid to capture Hapilon.

There has been no further word from the group of Christians since they were caught up in a ferocious battle that has raged between Islamist insurgents and Philippines soldiers in Marawi for the past week. Jose Calida, the top Philippine prosecutor, said last week that the violence on the large southern island of Mindanao "is no longer a rebellion of Filipino citizens".

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"They did not kill me because I was able to recite a Muslim prayer". The group abducted a captain and chief engineer in March this year when their vessel was cruising the Southern Mindanao - General Santos City route; evidence that trans-border crimes, terrorism and piracy have continued in the Sulu-Sulawesi-Celebes Sea.

Southeast Asian fighters fleeing the Middle East "could look to Mindanao to provide temporary refuge as they work their way home", said a report late past year by the Jakarta-based Institute for Policy Analysis of Conflict, predicting a high risk of regional violence.

Duterte previously told his army to "spare no one" in Marawi and has allowed warrantless searches and arrests on all of Mindanao, the southern island Duterte calls home.

"Right now, he is still inside (the city)", Gen. Eduardo Ano told the AP.

Hataman said the terror and displacement have made the observance of Ramadan unusually somber and tough for the city's vast Muslim population.

The main Muslim rebel groups have signed accords with the government aimed at forging a final peace, giving up their separatist ambitions in return for autonomy. Amid continuing poverty and other social ills, restiveness among minority Muslims has continued.

Hapilon, an Islamic preacher, was once a commander of the armed group Abu Sayyaf that pledged allegiance to the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL, also known as ISIS) in 2014. He now heads an alliance of at least 10 smaller militant groups, including the Maute, which has a heavy presence in Marawi and has been instrumental in fighting off government forces in the current battles.

"But 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 job I will take care of the rest", Duterte said on Friday, according to a president's office transcript.

Duterte has said local criminals are also backing the Maute in Marawi.

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