Philippines President Duterte declares martial law in south

Philippines President Duterte declares martial law in south
2 min read
24 May, 2017
Philippines president says martial law could 'last up to a year' following deadly clashes between security forces and IS-linked militants.
President Duterte declared the measure during a trip to Moscow [AFP]

Philippines' President Rodrigo Duterte declared martial law on Tuesday in the country's southern region of Mindanao, following deadly clashes between security forces and Islamic State group-linked militants in a major city.

The announcement was made by a spokesman of the president in Moscow, where Duterte was on an official visit.

"As of 10:00pm Manila time (2pm GMT) Duterte has declared martial law for the entire island of Mindanao," spokesman Ernesto Abella said on national television.

Abella said martial law would be in place for 60 days, however, the president later indicated that it may even last up to a year.

"If it would take a year to do it, if it's over within a month, then I'd be happy," Duterte said in a video posted online.

Martial law is particularly sensitive in the Philippines because it was used by dictator Ferdinand Marcos to remain in power for two-decades.

The announcement came after security forces battled dozens of IS-linked militants in a built-up area of Marawi, a city of about 200,000 people in Mindanao, on Tuesday.

Marawi is about 800 kilometres (500 miles) south of Manila, the nation's capital.

One policeman and two soldiers were killed in the clashes, which began when security forces raided a house where Insilon Hapilon, a leader of the Abu Sayyaf militant group and Philippine head of IS, was believed to be hiding.

Photos posted on social media by locals showed the gunmen walking through of Marawi and placing black flags.

Muslim rebels have been waging a rebellion since the 1970s for an independent or autonomous homeland in Mindanao, with the conflict claiming more than 130,000 lives.

The main Muslim rebel groups are involved in peace talks with the government.