MANILA – Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte declared martial law on the southern island of Mindanao after deadly clashes between security forces and Islamic State backed militants.
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Presidential spokesman Ernesto Abella told a news conference in Moscow that martial rule took effect Tuesday evening in the southern region of Mindanao “on the grounds of existence of rebellion.”
The emergency declaration took immediate effect and will last for 60 days, according to presidential spokesman Ernesto Abell.
Duterte who was in Moscow met Russian President Vladimir Putin ahead of time as he cut short his tour to be in Manila.
Apart from the timeline presented by the spokesperson, Duterte said on Wednesday that martial law could last a year as he vowed it would be similar to the late Ferdinand Marcos dictatorship, who declared martial law to remain in power during his two-decade reign, which ended in 1986.
“If it would take a year to do it, if it’s over within a month, then I’d be happy,” Duterte said in a video posted online by the government.
The city of Marawi, 816km south of Manila is witnessing violence as two soldiers and one police officer were killed in the fight.
Defence Secretary Delfin Lorenzana confirmed the casualties amid fight which began when security forces raided a house where they believed Isnilon Hapilon, a leader of the infamous Abu Sayyaf kidnap gang and Philippine head of IS, was hiding.
The Abu Sayyaf, based on the most southern islands of Mindanao, has kidnapped hundreds of Filipinos and foreigners since the early 1990s to extract ransoms. The United States lists it as a terrorist organisation.