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Philippines Declares Martial Law Following ISIS Outbreak

An ISIS-affiliated terrorist group in the Philippines is wreaking havoc.

The group, known as Maute, began to take hold in the city of Marawi on May 23, leading to a declaration of martial law over an the island of Mindanao, Reuters reported.

President Rodrigo Duterte of the Philippines was visiting Russia's President Vladimir Putin when he received news of the blazes in the city of Marawi.

Schools, homes and even a church were lit on fire. A local hospital had been taken over, and the Philippines flag normally found at the front of the premises had been replaced with the black flag of the Islamic State, CNN Philippines reported.

All the while, Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana was also in Russia, accompanying Duterte.

Due to the outbreak, the trip was reportedly cut short.

The Washington Post reported that Foreign Secretary Alan Peter Cayetano said, "The president feels he is needed in Manila ASAP."

Duterte quickly declared martial law over the entire island of Mindanao for the next 60 days.

For the 20 million people in Mindanao, declaration of martial law means imposed curfews, placed checkpoints, and a suspended writ of habeas corpus, among other things.

The extreme measures were criticized as being disproportionate to the relatively small city's outbreak, but the president defended his decision, claiming it is necessary "to suppress lawless violence and rebellion and for public safety."

Mindanao citizens were urged to either stay in their homes or flee the island while military officials assured that reinforcements were on the way. 

The Philippine Star reported that automatic gunfire could be heard as members of the group and military personnel exchanged fire. 

These reinforcements included an initial 500 soldiers, who are reportedly being held back by rebels at a roadblock.

The army unit based in Marawi City, known as the 103rd Brigade, is searching for members of Maute.

Presidential spokesman Ernesto Abella confirmed that despite the declaration, the situation is under control.

Muslim insurgent groups within the Philippines peaked during a rebellion in the 1970s and have since had flare-ups in the country, due to the militant influences there and in Southeast Asia.

Brothers Abdullah and Omar Maute founded Maute, also known as Dawlah Islamiya Philippines. It has since pledged its loyalty to the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria, and uses the black ISIS flag as its revolutionary banner.

Most recently, the group was blamed for the bombing in Davao City in September 2016, which killed 15 people. In April, a Maute camp in Lanao del Sur had been captured, and items such as, explosives, uniforms and passports of Indonesian militants were said to be recovered.

Sources: Reuters, CNN Philippines, The Washington Post, The Philippine Star / Photo credit: 3aref 6ari2o/Flickr

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