Philippines Declares Martial Law on Southern Island Move on Mindanao follows battle between government troops and militants from Islamic State-linked rebel group By Jake Maxwell Watts

MANILA—Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte declared martial law in the southern island of Mindanao following fighting between the army and an Islamic State-linked militant group.

The declaration, in effect for 60 days, follows a battle between government troops and militants from the armed rebel Maute group, which took place in a small southern city on Tuesday.

Fighters from the group clashed with the country’s police and army after gunmen seized several buildings in Marawi, including the city jail and a hospital, subsequently setting them on fire and parading the black Islamic State flag through the city streets.

Martial law marks an escalation in a longstanding battle between authorities in the Philippines and several heavily armed Islamist groups in the southern provinces, whose jungle strongholds and deep community links in predominantly Muslim areas have made them hard to defeat despite years of efforts.

In a separate incident in Marawi on Tuesday, police and army units exchanged fire with gunmen while seeking to serve an arrest warrant on Isnilon Hapilon, a militant seen as a senior leader of the Abu Sayyaf Group, another Islamist organization that has declared allegiance to Islamic State.

Presidential spokesman Ernesto Abella said during a news briefing in Moscow, where Mr. Duterte is in the middle of a four-day official visit, that the martial law was possible “on the grounds of existence of rebellion because of what is happening in Mindanao.” He didn’t give details about what conditions martial law would include.

The declaration is likely to be controversial in the Philippines, where martial law is remembered by many for its adoption by former dictator Ferdinand Marcos, who was ousted by popular revolt in 1986 after a 21-year rule. Mr. Duterte floated the idea of martial law several times in the past, mostly in the context of justifying additional powers for police to continue a bloody antinarcotics campaign. CONTINUE AT SITE

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