Editor's note: This is a developing story. We will update this as new information comes in.
MANILA, Philippines (First published May 24, 2017, 12:04 p.m.) — President Rodrigo Duterte has declared martial law for 60 days over Mindanao following the firefight between military forces and the ISIS-inspired Maute fighters on Tuesday.
Duterte's meeting with Russian President Vladimir Putin, which was scheduled to happen on Thursday, has been brought forward to Tuesday evening to allow his hasty return to the Philippines. Duterte has cut short his official visit and is expected to return to the country by Wednesday to deal with the conflict.
Duterte told Putin that he is counting on Russia to supply weapons for the fight against terrorism in the Philippines as he cozies up with non-traditional ally Moscow and veers away from longtime partner the United States.
New: Armed Forces public affairs chief Col. Edgard Arevalo said the death toll is now at 21: 13 militants, five soldiers, a security guard and two policemen. Meanwhile, 31 others were wounded.
New: Duterte, at a press conference shortly after arriving from Russia on Wednesday, said a police chief was stopped at a militant checkpoint and was beheaded. PNP spokesman Chief Supt. Dionardo Carlos, meanwhile, said they have not received reports on the beheading of civilians.
New: 120 civilians used as human shields by militants holed up at the Amai Pakpak Medical Center were rescued, Western Mindanao Command chief Lt. Gen. Carlito Galvez Jr. said.
New: Duterte said that he might extend army rule to Visayas and Luzon. He also announced that he had ordered the Philippine Navy to set a blockade in the waters between Mindanao and Visayas.
New: Duterte said that the privilege of habeas corpus had been suspended. He added that government security forces may conduct searches and set up checkpoints on the Philippines' second largest island.
The Philippine National Police has been put on full alert status nationwide. All unit commanders were directed to strengthen security in all vital installations and public places. The Social Welfare department also activated its red alert status.
Zamboanga, Basilan, Sulu and Tawi-Tawi are on heightened alert. Cotabato City residents were told to take "extra-precautionary measures" as a triple red alert status was raised by the city government after sightings of alleged terrorists there. Davao City Mayor Sara Duterte-Carpio, meanwhile, revised her "on lockdown" declaration over the city. Davao City is now under a "hold-and-secure situation," where travel to and from the city is discouraged.
The Western Mindanao Command says it is waiting for the written guidelines on how to implement the declared martial law.
Conflicting statements by authorities causing confusion.
107 inmates escaped from two Marawi City jails—Malabang District Jail 39 and Marawi City Jail—after Maute gunmen attack.
Liberal Party president Sen. Francis Pangilinan says Congress will look into the basis of the martial law declaration.
A constitutional expert and rights group expressed concern over the declaration of martial law.
A priest, two church workers and 10 parishioners were taken hostage by the militants. A teacher was also reportedly taken as hostage.
Gunshots have so far halted, according to the Marawi City mayor. Some residents have evacuated while others opted to lock themselves indoors.
Here's what we know so far:
The gunbattle began after government troops raided the hideout of Abu Sayyaf leader Isnilon Hapilon in Marawi City, a largely Muslim city with a population of over 200,000. The US Department of Justice has listed the Abu Sayyaf leader among the most-wanted terrorists worldwide, with a reward of up to $5 million for his capture. Hapilon's group called for reinforcement from its ally, the Maute. The Maute was blamed for the bomb attack in Duterte's hometown of Davao City last September which killed 15.
Hapilon, an Arabic-speaking preacher known for his expertise in commando assaults, has pledged allegiance to ISIS in 2014, according to security officials. He reportedly has been chosen to lead an ISIS branch in Southeast Asia. But Philippine and US security officials assert there is no formal IS presence in the Philippines, citing the "worldwide phenomenon" where existing terror groups affiliate themselves with ISIS.
Hapilon, who is still recovering from wounds sustained in a military airstrike in January, and more than a dozen of his men summoned reinforcements. Armed Forces chief Gen. Eduardo Año said nearly 50 gunmen entered the city. Meanwhile, Marawi City Mayor Majul Usman Gandamra said in an interview with ANC's "Headstart" that he thinks the number may be from 100 to 200.
Gandamra said the attack caught them by surprise. He said they knew something will happen and are on alert but did not expect the number of Maute militants who entered the city. Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana said there was no failure of intelligence in the Marawi situation but admitted there was "lack of appreciation" of information.
Some 20 gunmen took position in a hospital and raised a black ISIS flag. A photo shared on the Facebook page of the Peace and Conflict Journalism Network showed a Maute fighter mounting an ISIS flag on a police vehicle the terror group sequestered.
Lorenzana said dozens of gunmen occupied the city hall—a claim countered by the Marawi City mayor—hospital and jail and burned the St. Mary's Church, the city jail, the Ninoy Aquino school and Dansalan College as well as some houses. Power was also cut while Maute snipers were all around. Troops and police engaged in a firefight with 10 other militants who went near the jail.
The mayor advised residents to stay indoors during the height of the tension.
Troops sealed off major entry and exit points to prevent Hapilon from escaping. Military reinforcements are also coming in from Zamboanga City and Manila. The Marawi City mayor said on Wednesday early morning that he is waiting for their arrival.
A Marawi teacher named Noddy Summer said residents remain locked up indoors until Wednesday morning. She added that her colleague was taken as a hostage by the militants.
The Catholic Bishops' Conference of the Philippines also released a statement saying Father Chito Suganob and others who were in the Cathedral of Our Lady Help of Christians were also taken as hostage. The CBCP said the militants have threatened to kill the hostages "if the government forces unleashed against them are not recalled."
Gandamra said no more gunshots were heard in the area but they are still monitoring the situation. He said schools will remain closed until the government takes full control of the situation.
He said sightings of Maute fighters are still reported but assured the public that Marawi City is till under the control of the government.
Lorenzana also assured that the government remains in control of the situation in Marawi City.
Presidential spokesperson Ernesto Abella said the grounds for martial law, which covers the entire Mindanao island effective 10 p.m. Tuesday, is the "existence of rebellion."
The declaration will help government forces carry out searches and arrests and detain rebel suspects more quickly, Lorenzana said.
The military has supported the martial law declaration but Philippine Constitution expert Christian Monsod said what happened in Marawi City does not meet the definition of rebellion as cited in the Revised Penal Code:
"The crime of rebellion or insurrection is committed by rising publicly and taking arms against the government for the purpose of removing from the allegiance to said Government or its laws, the territory of the Republic of the Philippines or any part thereof, of any body of land, naval or other armed forces, or depriving the Chief Executive or the Legislature, wholly or partially, of any of their powers or prerogatives."
He said he thinks what happened was lawless violence as it does not involve the purpose of removing allegiance to the government or its laws any part of the territory of the Philippines.
Karapatan also warned that the declaration might aggravate insecurity in the area and lead to human rights violations. The Commission on Human Rights urged the government to uphold human rightsamid the martial law declaration.
Police said Metro Manila is on full alert status meaning maximum attendance of cops is ensured. Police said no one is allowed to file a leave and those on leave will be recalled.
— Mikas Matsuzawa with reports from Roel Pareño, John Unson and AP