Islamic State group-linked militants swept through a southern Philippine city, beheading a police chief, burning buildings, seizing a Catholic priest and his worshippers and raising the black flag of IS, authorities said Wednesday. President Rodrigo Duterte, who had declared martial law across the southern third of the nation, warned he may expand it nationwide.
As details of the attack in Marawi city emerged, fears mounted that the largest Roman Catholic nation in Asia could be falling into a growing list of countries grappling with the spread of influence from the IS terrorist group in Syria and Iraq.
The violence erupted Tuesday after the army raided the hideout of Isnilon Hapilon, a commander of the Abu Sayyaf militant group who has pledged allegiance to IS. He is on Washington’s list of most-wanted terrorists with a $5 million reward for information leading to his capture.
Duterte: If I think you should die, you will die. Ganun talaga. Do not force my hand. We are not new to martial law. pic.twitter.com/FMcWjvc0hW — CNN Philippines (@cnnphilippines) May 24, 2017
“I warned everybody not to force my hand into it,” Duterte said on his plane en route to the Philippines. “I have to do it to preserve the republic.”
Martial law allows Duterte to use the armed forces to carry out arrests, searches and detentions more rapidly. He has repeatedly threatened to place the south, the scene of decades-long Muslim separatist uprisings, under martial law. But human rights groups have expressed fears that martial law powers could further embolden Duterte, whom they have accused of allowing extrajudicial killings of thousands of people in a crackdown on illegal drugs.
Details from inside Marawi were sketchy because it appeared to be sealed off and without electricity.
Philippines leader declares martial law on southern island of Mindanao "on the grounds of existence of rebellion." https://t.co/mX0SGXvoLi pic.twitter.com/L2O08cVz3L — ABC News (@ABC) May 24, 2017