Top militant Hapilon often has eluded Philippine authorities

APC Marawi City

EXODUS. Residents continue to leave Marawi City.

Duterte issued a stark warning to the Islamists in the mostly Muslim city of 200,000 people: "If you fight us, you will die".

Hapilon moved out of the Abu Sayyaf's strongholds in Sulu province previous year to bring bandit and terrorist groups in the southern Philippines under IS' banner.

According to Padilla, there have been reports of 12 Maute members neutralized in the on-going clearing operations, half of them were Singaporean, Indonesian and Malaysian nationals. It's one of less than a dozen new armed Muslim groups that have pledged allegiance to ISIS and formed a loose alliance, with Hapilon reportedly designated as the alliance's leader.

In a sign of the confusion over events inside the city, a local police chief told the AP on Friday that he was fine - two days after Duterte told journalists the police chief had been beheaded by militants.

Mr Duterte ordered his troops to crush militants who are fighting street battles with government forces in the south, warning Friday that the country is at a grave risk of "contamination" by the IS group.

THE Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) said Tuesday night, May 23, that its operations and the sporadic fighting in Marawi City is ongoing, but will not "give specifics at this point".

"Anyone now holding a gun, confronting government with violence, my orders are spare no one, let us solve the problems of Mindanao once and for all", said Duterte, who is from the island, after cutting short a visit to Russian Federation and returning to Manila.

The turmoil was the final straw for President Rodrigo Duterte, who delivered on his threat to impose martial law on Mindanao, the country's second-largest island, to stop the spread of radical Islam.

Militants are trying to find a way to extricate Hapilon, who suffered a stroke after a government airstrike wounded him in January, Gen Ano said. Dionardo Carlos said the people of Mindanao should not fear the declaration of martial law as the police will always protect the basic human rights of the people.

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. "And if it means many people dying, so be it".

Thousands of people were fleeing the city Thursday, jamming their belongings into cars.

Washington has offered a $5 million reward for information leading to Hapilon's capture, but he has proved elusive.

But the operation quickly went wrong as the militants called in reinforcements.

Much of Marawi remains a no-go zone, but disturbing details have emerged.

A military source earlier said that seven government personnel - five soldiers and two policemen - were killed while 33 others were wounded as a result of the clashes with the Maute Group. Plumes of black smoke rose from the direction of the city center and air force helicopters swooped overhead.

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