Malaysians, Indonesians, fighting alongside IS-linked rebels in Marawi

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Duterte told the troops fighting Musli.

Teachers who were trapped in the siege by Muslim militants of Marawi city wait for their transport back to their hometowns in southern Philippines Thursday, May 25, 2017.

Philippine military jets fired rockets at militant positions Saturday as soldiers fought to wrest control of a southern city from gunmen linked to the Islamic State group, witnesses said.

The violence erupted in response to a failed attempt by security forces to capture Isnilon Hapilon, who the government believes is Islamic State's point-man in the Philippines. Their condition remains unknown.

At least 61 militants were killed and 15 security forces as of Saturday, according to the army, which said it could confirm nine civilians killed by militants.

The latest deaths raise the overall death toll to more than 40 from the urban fighting, which has sparked an exodus of Marawi residents and prompted President Duterte to declare martial rule in the south.

PRESIDENT Rodrigo Duterte is not closing his doors on possible reconciliatory talks with the terrorists.

He said the refusal of the militants to surrender is holding the city captive.

The "mayor" was a reference to himself, as he was mayor of Davao City before becoming president.

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 ISIS group in Syria and Iraq. Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana told reporters that Hapilon has received funds from the Islamic State group. Some civilians left on foot, others were seen tying white cloths to poles to distinguish themselves from militants as soldiers huddled behind armoured vehicles slowly advanced.

"I saw two jets swoop down and fire at rebel positions repeatedly", Alexander Mangundatu, a security guard, told The Associated Press in Marawi as a plume of black smoke billowed in the distance.

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'Early in the morning, at 08.20, there are civilians, concerned citizens, who said "Can you verify these dead bodies?"' "They're getting caught in the conflict and I hope this ends soon".

"While the government is presently conducting legitimate operations to address the ongoing rebellion, if not the seeds of invasion, public safety necessitates the continued implementation of martial law and the suspension of the privilege of the writ of habeas corpus in the whole of Mindanao until such time that the rebellion is completely quelled", Duterte said.

Security experts say Mindanao could become a draw for regional extremists and the Maute's alignment with Islamic State and its ability to take on the military could support moves to secure funding and recruit foreign and local fighters.

Army tanks packed with soldiers have rolled into a southern Philippine city to try to restore control after militants linked to Islamic State group launched a violent siege.

Much of the city is a no-go zone, but as the military advances and more civilians escape, the scope of the battle is becoming clear.

He said Hapilon suffered a stroke after a government airstrike wounded him in January.

As of Tuesday morning, Ano said the military, working house-by-house, had cleared 70 percent of the city and the remaining militants were isolated.

Another concern for the government was the discovery of Indonesian and Malaysian fighters with the Maute, which it said showed a domestic rebellion had expanded to become a far greater threat, driven by radical ideology.

Ano said foreign fighters were believed to be inside, but he was more cautious.

"They are texting us and calling us for help", he said.

Hapilon is one of the most senior commanders of the Abu Sayyaf, which is notorious for kidnappings for ransom, beheadings and bombings. The province is a stronghold for the Maute group, which has pledged allegiance IS.