Philippines: Thousands Flee Fighting in Mindanao City

BenarNews staff
2017.05.24
Manila and Mindanao, Philippines
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A van packed with people and their belongings waits in traffic as they flee from Marawi City, southern Philippines, May 24, 2017. (Richel V. Umel/BenarNews)

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A soldier stands guard in front of an army tank along the Marawi to Iligan highway in Pantar town, Lanao del Norte, May 24, 2017. (Froilan Gallardo/BenarNews)

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Soldiers check vehicles for fleeing Maute terrorists at a checkpoint in Pantar town, Lanao del Norte, May 24, 2017. (Froilan Gallardo/BenarNews)

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Two women walk next to a soldier near a checkpoint along the Suarez National Highway in Iligan City, May 25, 2017. (Richel V. Umel/ BenarNews)

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Soldiers inspect a vehicle along the Suarez National Highway in Iligan City, May 25, 2017. (Richel V. Umel/ BenarNews)

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A soldier walks along a line of vehicles fleeing the fighting in Marawi City, May 24, 2017. (Froilan Gallardo/BenarNews)

Thousands of people packed their vehicles and fled Marawi, a Muslim city of about 200,000 on the southern Philippine island of Mindanao, as fighting raged for a second day on Wednesday between government forces and local militants affiliated with the Islamic State (IS).

Army tanks and trucks were placed along the highway as heavily armed soldiers in battle gear patrolled and carried out inspections.

President Rodrigo Duterte has placed the entire southern third of this predominantly Catholic nation under martial law, meaning the military can conduct arrests and carry out searches without any court orders.

Since fighting began on Tuesday, at least 13 militants were killed, while five soldiers and a police officer died in running gun battles. Several establishments including a university were burned down by militants who also took a local priest and three companions hostage.

Gunmen have threatened to kill the hostages if the military offensive is not stopped even as troops deployed road blocks around the city and on the main highway leading out of it.

The heavy military presence in the area revived fears of martial law similar to the two-decade rule of dictator Ferdinand Marcos, when thousands of activists died or went missing.

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