Hostages taken at church in southern Philippines

Philippines President Rodrigo Duterte on Tuesday declared martial law in southern Mindanao province as fighting between the army and militants linked to the Islamic State broke out in Marawi City.

The State Department in November halted the sale of 26,000 assault rifles to the Philippines' national police, as U.S. lawmakers questioned Duterte's human rights record given his deadly war on drugs that has seen thousands of suspected dealers killed.

Duterte will cut short his trip and fly back to deal with the situation in the south, said his foreign secretary, Alan Peter Cayetano.

Gunfights ensued, killing at least two soldiers and one police officer and injuring 12 other members of the security forces.

He also said the attack was sparked when Philippine troops raided the hideout of a terrorist suspect in Marawi City.

Lt. Gen. Eduardo Ano, the armed forces chief of staff, said almost 50 gunmen entered Marawi City, which has a population of about 200,000, and burned houses and other buildings to sow confusion during the fighting, the Associated Press reported.

Presidential spokesman Ernesto Abella told a news conference in Moscow martial rule took effect on Tuesday evening in the southern region of Mindanao "on the grounds of existence of rebellion". We can't let a madman with nuclear weapons on the loose like that.

Some buildings were also set on fire by the terrorist group, including schools and a Catholic church, according to Mr. Lorenzana. Duterte thanked him, adding, "This is the scourge of my nation now and I have to do something to preserve the Filipino nation".

President Trump called Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte a "good man" and said the ruthless strongman is doing an "excellent job" during a phone call last month, a report said Tuesday.

Cayetano said he would stay behind in Moscow, where a number of agreements are to be signed between the governments. But as the Washington Post points out, people in the Philippines still remember the last time a President declared martial law: "In 1972, then-President Ferdinand Marcos declared martial law to ensure that he would remain in power beyond the end of his second term the following year".

The militants belong to the Maute group, which has pledged allegiance to Islamic State in the Middle East.

Duterte told Trump drugs were the "scourge of [his] nation", prompting Trump to criticize his predecessor, Barack Obama, whose administration withheld aid to the Philippines over concern for the country's war on drugs.

It was not a lapse in military intelligence that caused the clashes, Lorenzana said, but rather a failure to "appreciate" the intelligence collected.

Security analysts say Hapilon has been trying to unite Filipino militant groups that have professed allegiance to IS.

The post-Marcos constitution imposed safeguards on martial law, including the requirement for congress to approve its imposition and extension. I want to deal with China and Russian Federation.

  • Jon Douglas