Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte has declared martial law in the entire island of Mindanao, Philippines. He issued the declaration last Tuesday, May 23, 2017 PST, from Moscow, where he was on an official visit, after roughly 50 armed men allegedly entered Marawi City, the capital of Lanao del Sur. The martial law in Mindanao declaration, according to Presidential Spokesman Ernesto Abella, will be in effect for 60 days and will include Sulu, Jolo and Tawi-Tawi.
Duterte declared Martial Law after members of the radical Islamist organization Maute group clashed with Philippine forces in Marawi. The army said that they were in the area to capture Isnilon Hapilon, the leader of an Islamic State branch in Southeast Asia. Hapilon is on the FBI’s “most wanted terrorist” list, with a $5 million reward for his capture.
Abella said that the declaration of martial law was necessary “in order to suppress lawless violence and rebellion and for public safety. The government is in full control of the situation.”
Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana said that at least 2 soldiers and one police officer have died. He also said that the militants have burned down several buildings including a church, the Marawi City jail and a school. Lorenzana said martial law measures on Mindanao would include suspension of the writ of habeas corpus, the imposition of curfews and establishment of checkpoints.
Because of the Marawi clash, Duterte has decided to cut short his Russia trip. He was able to meet Russian President Vladimir Putin before he left.
Meanwhile, the Armed Forces of the Philippines has issued the statement below:
“The situation in Marawi has stabilized.
“Security forces are in full control of the situation.
“The armed men we are dealing with are not ISIS but members Local Terrorist Group.
“The news being circulated by these terrorists and their sympathizers are spurious and are meant to spread lies and disinformation. It is propaganda to attract foreign terrorists’ support and recognition.
“The reported “eyewitness account” is untrue that Amai Pakpak Hospital has been occupied and the people there were held hostage.
“The Marawi City Hall was not occupied as was earlier reported merely quoting “sources”.
“The sporadic firefights heard were harassment actions by terrorist sympathizers that were conducted as diversionary tactics to divide the attention of the reinforcing AFP personnel.
“But even these are already held in check.
“Information from operating units states that at around 2PM 23 May 2017, Soldiers, acting on the information regarding the presence of local terrorists and their cohorts, proceeded to Brgy. Basak, Malutlut, Marawi City for a law enforcement Operation.
“The security forces were fired upon constraining them to retaliate.
“Follow-up operations are on-going. We cannot reveal other details so as not to compromise operational security.
“Follow on forces are underway as we speak to further ensure that we will keep the grip of the situation.
“Meanwhile, we fervently urge our people to refrain from posting in social media information that would tend exacerbate the situation. Especially of photos and videos on the movements of our troops and on terrorist propaganda circulating through social media.
“We will continue to provide updates as often as possible with due regard to the security of our operating forces and the conduct of the operations itself.”
Meanwhile, full alert now being implemented in the neighboring cities of Iligan and Cagayan de Oro. The Province of Bukidnon is also placed under full alert.
Netizens also shared updates via social media:
— SSM-U (@attysamina) May 23, 2017
Some houses being set on fire by ISIS. People don’t know where to go. They are stuck in Marawi. ISIS not letting them leave the area. pic.twitter.com/g4NkTauYrS
— Alia (@KhadijaBintAli_) May 23, 2017
— Andrew Alonto (@drewalonto) May 23, 2017