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Duterte declares martial rule in south

China Daily | Updated: 2017-05-25 07:05

Philippine leader asks Russia for arms support to fight extremists

MANILA - Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte warned on Wednesday that he'll be harsh in enforcing martial law in his country's south as he abruptly left Moscow to deal with a crisis at home sparked by an extremist siege on a city, where militants burned buildings overnight and taken hostages.

Extremists abducted a priest and more than a dozen churchgoers while laying siege to Marawi city overnight, burning buildings, ambushing soldiers and hoisting flags of the Islamic State group, officials said on Wednesday.

 Duterte declares martial rule in south

Government troops check a vehicle evacuating residents from their hometown of Marawi in southern Philippines, on Wednesday. Romeo Ranoco / Reuters

Duterte declared martial rule for 60 days in the entire southern Mindanao region, the restive third of the Philippine archipelago, on Tuesday to try to crush extremists who have aligned themselves with the Islamic State group and occupied a hospital, jail and other buildings and battled troops in the audacious attack in Marawi.

Foreign Ministry spokesman Lu Kang said on Wednesday that Beijing understands and firmly supports Manila to fight against terrorism.

"China believes that under the leadership of Duterte, the Philippines will be able to maintain the security and stability of Mindanao," he said.

Martial law could be extended for a year depending on how long the problem could be quelled, Duterte said.

"I said I would be harsh and I warned everybody not to force my hand into it," he said.

Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana said troops raided the hideout of a top terrorist suspect in Marawi on Tuesday, sparking a gunbattle that prompted the militants to call for reinforcements from an allied group, the Maute. He said dozens of gunmen occupied city hall, a hospital and a jail and burned a Catholic church, a college and some houses in a bold attack that killed at least two soldiers and a police officer and wounded 12 others.

Several militants were killed in the fighting in Marawi city, about 800 kilometers south of Manila, but others continued to lay siege to the city of more than 200,000 people, officials said.

"The whole of Marawi city is blacked out, there is no light, and there are Maute snipers all around," Lorenzana said.

Meanwhile, Duterte has asked his Russian counterpart, Vladimir Putin, for arms to fight Islamic militants.

"Our country needs modern weapons to fight against the IS group. We had certain orders in the United States. However, the situation is not very good now. I came to Moscow to ask for your help and support," the Kremlin quoted Duterte as telling Putin in a meeting on Tuesday.

Duterte called Russia a reliable partner, and he offered to continue their friendship.

"We need to improve trade exchange between the two countries," he said.

Putin said Moscow and Manila have many bilateral projects, including power engineering, defense cooperation, and transport infrastructure.

Duterte arrived in Moscow on Tuesday for a four-day official visit, but was forced to cut short his trip as fighting broke out in Mindanao.

Putin said he hoped the conflict would be resolved "with minimum losses".

China Daily - Xinhua - AP

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