According to a government spokesperson, ISIS militants had taken over several government buildings in Marawi, and set to fire many others, including a church, a school, and the city jail. Their condition remains unknown.

"These cowardly terrorists killed Philippine law enforcement officials and endangered the lives of innocent citizens", US press secretary Sean Spicer said in a statement released on Thursday, May 25. The number of civilian dead was unknown.

The troops are conducting surgical operations to clear Marawi of Maute members, who launched an attack in the city last Tuesday, which prompted President Rodrigo Duterte to declare martial law in the whole island of Mindanao. But the recent bloodshed in Marawi has raised fears that extremism is growing as smaller militant groups unify and align themselves with the Islamic State group.

He pledged allegiance to the Islamic State group in 2014.

Thousands of civilians have streamed out of Marawi and more than 2,000 were still trapped inside the city.

HRW also said expanding the military's legal authority opened the door to increased human rights violations against civilians, "who have always been targets of military abuses".

That contradicts a government statement issued the following day, which said that "no person can be detained or put under arrest without orders coming from these civil courts", AFP reports.

Despite the political turmoil Duterte's jokes are sure to illicit, he still has the more pressing matter of combatting what he calls a "wide-scale offensive on positions of Philippine troops in the city of Marawi".

Duterte told soldiers in Iligan, a city near Marawi, that he had long feared that "contamination by ISIS" loomed in the country's future, using the acronym for the Islamic State group.

"Fight, and I will pray for you and I will answer for everything", he said at one point in english in a videotape of his speech.

Lt. Gen. Carlito G. Galvez Jr., a military commander, said civilians are enduring "extreme deprivation" because government services are unavailable and shops are closed.

"These terrorists atrocities continue sow terror and confusion even to non-combatant Muslims and Christians".

Hapilon is also believed to be Philippine head of Daesh and the military is certain that the Maute are protecting him.

Hapilon was the target of Tuesday's botched raid and Duterte said ISIS in the Middle East had anointed him as its man in the Philippines, and Hapilon was revered as its leader. But the operation went awry and militants rampaged through the city, torching buildings and battling government forces in the streets.

Malaysian media-quoting unnamed intelligence sources-reported that two Malaysians, Abdulrahman Asmawi from Kelantan and Kamsa Yahya from Kedah; an Indonesian militant, Shei Ayman Marjuki; and an Arab sheik, Ahmad Balkafi-were among those killed in Marawi. Security experts say Mindanao could become a draw for regional extremists and the Maute's alignment with Islamic State and its ability to take on the military could support moves to secure funding and recruit foreign and local fighters. "As Muslims, we accept all the trials with patience and we don't blame anyone for our situation today", he said. The United States regards Hapilon as one of the world's most risky terrorists and has offered a bounty of Dollars 5 million for his capture.


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