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Islamist militants in Philippines beheaded local police chief, says Duterte

24 May 2017

Donald Trump told Philippines' Rodrigo Duterte in a phone call last month that he is prepared to use force against "madman" Kim Jong-un but hoped the "good guy" Xi Jinping will help solve the North Korean nuclear issue, according to a leaked transcript.

Duterte met late Tuesday with Russian President Vladimir Putin and said he is counting on Russia to supply weapons for the Philippines to fight terrorism.

Spokesman Ernesto Abella said in the nationally televised briefing that Duterte placed the entire southern region of Mindanao, which makes up roughly one third of the country and is home to 20 million people, under martial law.

"This is possible because of the existence of rebellion", Abella said.

The constitution limits martial law to 60 days unless congress agrees to extend it. Duterte warned Wednesday it could last for a year.

Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte flew to Russian Federation on Monday to meet his hero, seek arms and steer his nation's foreign policy further away from longtime ally the United States.

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Clashes between government forces and the Maute group, an Islamist militant organization based in Mindanao, began in Marawai, a city of about 200,000 people, PNA reported.

As details of the attack in Marawi city emerged, fears mounted that the largest Roman Catholic nation in Asia could be falling into a growing list of countries grappling with the spread of influence from the Islamic State group in Syria and Iraq.

Lorenzana, the defence secretary, said at least two soldiers and a police officer had been killed.

Meanwhile, photographs purporting to show buildings aflame and black flags raised above public buildings hit social media.

The violence on the southern island has left three members of the security forces dead, officials say. According to the Philippine president, Washington used to supply weapons to Manila but he did not want to deal with the United States anymore "because they were questioning the human rights practices in the country".

Trump has not spoken out against that strategy, and in their call he praised Duterte for doing an "unbelievable job on the drug problem". The U.S. State Department has offered a bounty of up to $5 million for Hapilon's arrest.

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These include the Maute group, which is based near Marawi.

The Maute group has engaged in repeated deadly battles with the military over the past year.

The main Muslim rebel groups are involved in peace talks with the government.

The operation was aimed at capturing Isnilon Hapilon, a leader of the Abu Sayyaf group notorious for piracy, banditry and for kidnapping and beheading Westerners.

The president introduced that the USA has strategic military assets in the region to deal with North Korea if necessary, but he would like to avoid the application of force if possible.

Duterte, who ordered Marcos to be buried at the Libingan ng mga Bayani a year ago and who previously admitted to be indebted to the Marcos family, has publicly toyed with the idea of declaring martial law as he cited the threat of illegal narcotics.

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