Government troops seen during assault by insurgents from the so-called Maute group
Government troops seen during assault by insurgents from the so-called Maute group צילום: Romeo Ranoco/Reuters

Army tanks packed with soldiers have rolled into the southern Philippine city of Marawi after Muslims linked to ISIS launched a violent siege, capturing Christians, torching buildings and setting free scores of prisoners, according to International Business Times. The Catholic church said Muslims were using Christians and a priest as human shields and had contacted cardinals with threats to execute hostages unless government troops withdrew.

Government soldier runs towards colleague during government assault on insurgents
צילום: Romeo Ranoco/Reuters

President Rodrigo Duterte declared martial law on Mindanao, the Muslim-majority island where Marawi is located, to prevent the spread of the group's hegemony in the impoverished region.

The violence flared in Marawi after a botched raid by security forces on a hideout of the Maute, a militant group that has pledged allegiance to ISIS. Fighters quickly dispersed, torching buildings and taking over bridges, a hospital, two jails, a church, and a college.

Duterte said he heard reports they may have beheaded a police chief, says IBT.

He said ISIS must be repelled from the Christian-majority Philippines and he would use all means possible to crush the Maute group and the allied Abu Sayyaf, whatever the consequences.

"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 Russia visit and returning to Manila. "If I think you should die, you will die. If you fight us, you will die. If there is open defiance, you will die, and if it means many people dying, so be it. That's how it is."

Government troops pray before assault on insurgents
צילום: REUTERS/Romeo Ranoco
Armored personnel carrier and government troops pass mosque before assault on insurgents
REUTERS/Romeo Ranoco
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