The Latest: Foreign fighters among militants in Philippines

AP News
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Posted: May 26, 2017 1:06 AM
The Latest: Foreign fighters among militants in Philippines

MARAWI, Philippines (AP) — The Latest on the siege of a southern Philippine city by militants linked to the Islamic State group (all times local):

1 p.m.

A top Philippine official says foreign fighters are among the militants linked to the Islamic State group who have laid siege to the southern city of Marawi.

Manila Solicitor General Jose Calida told reporters Friday that Indonesians and Malaysians are fighting in Marawi.

The militants have torn through the streets of Marawi since Tuesday night, torching buildings, taking a priest and his worshippers hostage and sealing off much of the city. At least 44 people have died in the fighting, including 31 militants and 11 soldiers.

A number of foreign militants have had a presence in the southern Philippines for decades, including some of Asia's most-wanted.

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9 a.m.

A police chief in the southern Philippines says he's safe after Philippines President Rodrigo Duterte announced earlier that the chief had been beheaded.

Duterte said Wednesday that militants who have laid siege to the city of Marawi had decapitated the police chief of Malabang.

Malabang Police Chief Romeo Enriquez told The Associated on Friday that he is fine. He said there may have been confusion because a former Malabang police chief was killed in the fighting — but he was not beheaded.

According to Enriquez, the former chief was fatally shot in a clash with the extremists on Tuesday outside a Marawi hospital.

The city of Marawi has been wracked by violence since Tuesday night, when militants swept through the city.

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11:30 p.m.

Philippine army generals say 31 Islamic State group-linked extremists have been killed in two days of fighting in a southern city that has been under siege since one of Asia's most-wanted militants evaded capture and dozens of rebels came to his aid.

Army officials said 13 fighters were killed Thursday by troops backed by rocket-firing helicopters in Marawi city, an important hub for the Islamic faith that now resembles a war zone. They said six soldiers perished in Thursday's fighting.

The latest deaths raise the overall death toll to more than 40 from the urban fighting, which has sparked an exodus of Marawi residents and prompted President Rodrigo Duterte to declare martial rule in the country's restive south.

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4:15 p.m.

A military spokesman says troops are using helicopters to help clear militants from the besieged city of Marawi in the southern Philippines.

Lt. Col. Jo-ar Herrera says the helicopters are firing rockets in "a precision attack."

As gunfire crackled in the background, Herrera says authorities believe Isnilon Hapilon, who is on Washington's list of most-wanted terrorists, is still in the city.

The violence erupted Tuesday night when authorities launched an unsuccessful raid to capture Hapilon.

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1 p.m.

Catholics in the Philippine capital have attended a Mass for people in the southern region now under martial law and in Marawi.

The city of about 200,000 people was under attack by Muslim militants and people were packing into vehicles to flee the violence Thursday as army trucks rolled into the city center. The Philippines is Asia's largest Roman Catholic nation, but its southern region has a large Muslim minority.

At the Mass in Manila, nun Mary John Mananzan called on people to pray and noted that hostages had been taken, including a priest from the cathedral in Marawi.

People were also protesting out of concern the martial law was too broadly applied. Protest leader Teddy Casino warned that there might be more extrajudicial killings and human rights violations.

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12:30 p.m.

Army tanks packed with soldiers have rolled into a southern Philippine city to try to restore control after militants linked to Islamic State group launched a violent siege.

Thousands of civilians have been fleeing the city of some 200,000 people.

At least 21 people have died in fighting that erupted late Tuesday, when the army raided the Marawi hideout of Isnilon Hapilon. Hapilon is on Washington's list of most-wanted terrorists and has a $5 million bounty on his head.

But the operation quickly went wrong as the militants called in reinforcements. The city of Marawi was still largely sealed off Thursday, although automatic gunfire and explosions could be heard. Plumes of black smoke rose from the direction of the city center and air force helicopters swooped overhead.

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The 11:30 p.m. item has been corrected to show that 13 militants and six soldiers were killed Thursday, not Wednesday.