MANILA — President Rodrigo Duterte of the Philippines placed the southern island of Mindanao under martial law on Tuesday after armed men belonging to two terrorist groups affiliated with the Islamic State killed a police officer and two soldiers, officials said.
The military and the police began a joint operation in the hopes of arresting Isnilon Hapilon, a leader of the Abu Sayyaf group, who was reportedly in the area and joined by an additional 100 militants belonging to a group called Maute.
As forces confronted the militants, the Islamists burned a school, several homes and a church.
The Islamist groups reportedly took over the Amai Pakpak Medical Center, hoisting the black banner of the Islamic State above the hospital.
By Tuesday night, the city of Marawi was under lockdown, as Maute snipers roamed the town and a series of explosions could be heard for miles around.
“We have enough troops and law enforcers on the ground, as well as the appropriate equipment to support our troops,” said Brig. Gen. Restituto Padilla. “We strongly urge the residents in these areas to remain calm and stay in their homes or evacuate to safer areas if they still can.”
Both groups have pledged allegiance to the Islamic State and vowed to carry out attacks across the Philippines, a predominantly Christian country.
“Maute fighters still occupy the main street. As of tonight, three government troops were killed,” said Delfin Lorenzana, the secretary of defense.
Further Updates Pending