Islamic State group-linked militants swept through a southern Philippine city, beheading a police chief, burning buildings, seizing a Catholic priest and his worshippers and raising the black flag of IS, authorities said Wednesday. President Rodrigo Duterte, who had declared martial law across the southern third of the nation, warned he may expand it nationwide. At least 21 people have died in the fighting, officials said. 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.
The violence erupted Tuesday after the army raided the hideout of Isnilon Hapilon, a commander of the Abu Sayyaf militant group who has pledged allegiance to IS. He is on Washington’s list of most-wanted terrorists with a $5 million reward for information leading to his capture. The militants called for reinforcements and around 100 gunmen entered Marawi, a mostly Muslim city of 200,000 people on the southern island of Mindanao, Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana said.
“We are in a state of emergency,” Duterte said Wednesday after he cut short a trip to Moscow and flew back to Manila. “I have a serious problem in Mindanao and the ISIS footprints are everywhere.”
He declared martial rule for 60 days in the entire Mindanao region home to 22 million people and vowed to be “harsh.”
“If I think that you should die, you will die,” he said. “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.”
But he said he would not allow abuses and that law-abiding citizens had nothing to fear. Duterte said a local police chief was stopped at a militant checkpoint and beheaded, and added that he may declare martial law nationwide if he believes the group has taken a foothold.
Marawi Bishop Edwin de la Pena said the militants forced their way into the Marawi Cathedral and seized a Catholic priest, 10 worshippers and three church workers. The priest, Father Chito, and the others had no role in the conflict, said Archbishop Socrates Villegas, president of the Catholic Bishops Conference of the Philippines.
“He was not a combatant. He was not bearing arms. He was a threat to none,” Villegas said of Chito. “His capture and that of his companions violates every norm of civilized conflict.”
Villegas said the gunmen are demanding the government recall its forces. Military spokesman Col. Edgard Arevalo said 13 militants had been killed, and that five soldiers had died and 31 others were wounded. Other officials said a security guard and two policemen were also killed, including the beheaded police chief. Arevalo said troops had cleared militants from a hospital, the city hall and Mindanao State University. About 120 civilians were rescued from the hospital, the military said.
Thousands of people have fled the city, said Myrna Jo Henry, an emergency response official. She quoted another official as saying Marawi was like “a ghost town.”
Broadcaster ABS-CBN showed people crammed inside and on top of public vehicles leaving the area, and some walking on foot with their belongings as they passed through a security checkpoint manned by soldiers. Martial law allows Duterte to use the armed forces to carry out arrests, searches and detentions more rapidly. He has repeatedly threatened to place the south, the scene of decades-long Muslim separatist uprisings, under martial law. But human rights groups have expressed fears that martial law powers could further embolden Duterte, whom they have accused of allowing extrajudicial killings of thousands of people in his crackdown on illegal drugs. Hapilon, an Arabic-speaking Islamic preacher known for his expertise in commando assaults, pledged allegiance to the Islamic State group in 2014. He is a commander of the Abu Sayyaf militant group and was wounded by a military airstrike in January.
Troops sealed off major entry and exit points to prevent Hapilon from escaping, military chief of staff Gen. Eduardo Ano told The Associated Press late Tuesday.
“We will conduct house-to-house clearing and do everything to remove the threat there. We can do that easily,” Ano said, but added it was more difficult in an urban setting because of the need to avoid civilian casualties. He said the group erected Islamic State flags at several locations. Provincial Vice Gov. Mamintal Adiong said late Wednesday that more troops had arrived in the city, which was dark because 80 percent was without electrical power.
“Hopefully, the military will be able to control the situation in Marawi city by tomorrow,” he said.
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.
“Of course, our country needs modern weapons, we had orders in the United States, but now the situation there is not very smooth and in order to fight the Islamic State, with their units and factions, we need modern weapons,” he said, according to Russian state news agency Tass. While pursuing peace talks with two large Muslim rebel groups in the south, Duterte has ordered the military to destroy smaller extremist groups which have tried to align with the Islamic State group. At least one of those smaller groups, the Maute, was involved in the Marawi siege. It’s one of less than a dozen new armed Muslim groups that have pledged allegiance to the Islamic State and formed a loose alliance, with Hapilon reportedly designated as the alliance’s leader.
Political analyst Ramon Casiple said the Maute is a clan-based group with members in Marawi who came to Hapnilon’s assistance, with some directly assisting in the fighting and others fanning out to different parts of the city, setting up checkpoints and burning some buildings and taking hostages from the cathedral.
“It is difficult to root out because they are from there,” he said. “The Mautes are embedded in the population.”
The group has been blamed for a bombing that killed 15 people in southern Davao city, Duterte’s hometown, last September and a number of attacks on government forces in Lanao, although it has faced setbacks from a series of military offensives.
Last month, troops backed by airstrikes killed dozens of Maute militants and captured their jungle camp near Lanao del Sur’s Piagapo town. Troops found homemade bombs, grenades, combat uniforms and passports of suspected Indonesian militants in the camp, the military said.
Counter Terrorism agencies were facing questions after it emerged Salman Abedi told friends that being a suicide bomber was okay , prompting them to call the Government s anti-terrorism hotline. Sources suggest that authorities were informed of the danger posed by Abedi on at least five separate occasions in the five years prior to the attack on Monday night.
Manchester Arena bomber Salman Abedi
The authorities were also aware that Abedi s father was linked to a well-known militant Islamist group in Libya, which is proscribed in Britain. Abedi also had links to several British-based jihadis with Isil connections. Yesterday his father was detained by Libyan militia in the capital Tripoli while the suicide bomber s two brothers have separately been arrested on suspicion of terrorism offences.
Father of Salman Abedi, the Manchester Arena bomber
The apparent lapses emerged on a day of heightened police activity as the hunt for Abedi s terror cell intensified.
Officers raided the suspected bomb factory where it is feared he made the device before the attack. Last night the Home Secretary conceded that Abedi was known the intelligence services, while counter terrorism officials were braced for criticism over the apparent failures
It came as:
- It emerged security services are examining links between Abedi and an expert bomb-maker who had lived in the same street in Manchester
- Leaked pictures last night emerged in the US of fragments of the bomb, prompting a diplomatic row between the Downing Street and the US security services.
- Britain was placed on security lock down with soldiers on the streets and several high-profile events cancelled
- The general election will resume with Ukip s general election manifesto launch today
- A minute s silence will be held on Thursday morning at 11am in memory of the victims
- A female police officer was revealed as one of the bomb victims, as further identities emerged
The missed opportunities to catch Abedi were beginning to mount up last night. The Telegraph has spoken to a community leader who said that Abedi was reported two years ago because he thought he was involved in extremism and terrorism .
Mohammed Shafiq, chief executive of the Ramadhan Foundation, said: People in the community expressed concerns about the way this man was behaving and reported it in the right way using the right channels.
They did not hear anything since. Two friends of Abedi also became so worried they separately telephoned the police counter-terrorism hotline five years ago and again last year.
They had been worried that he was supporting terrorism and had expressed the view that being a suicide bomber was ok , a source told the BBC.
Akram Ramadan, 49, part of the close-knit Libyan community in south Manchester, said Abedi had been banned from Didsbury Mosque after he had confronted the Imam who was delivering an anti-extremist sermon.
A police forensic investigator at an address in Elsmore Road, Greater Manchester, after a suicide bomber killed 22 people, including children, as an explosion tore through fans leaving a pop concert in Manchester Credit: PA
Mr Ramadan said he understood that Abedi had been placed on a watch list because the mosque reported him to the authorities for his extremist views. A well-placed source at Didsbury Mosque confirmed it had contacted the Home Office s Prevent anti-radicalisation programme as a result. A US official also briefed that members of Abedi s own family had contacted British police saying that he was dangerous , but again the information does not appear to have been acted upon.
Abedi’s own family background might also have been a red flag to authorities. His father was a member of the militant Libyan Islamic Fighting Group. Yet Abedi was able to travel frequently between the UK and Libya, where it is feared he trained in bombmaking and possibly traveled to Syria. His youngest brother, Hisham – who is photographed on social media wielding an automatic rifle, was yesterday arrested by the Libyans who suspect him of knowing about the Manchester plot in advance and plotting his own attack in Tripoli.
US authorities said Abedi was known to them prior to the atrocity while France s interior minister said the 22-year-old had proven links with Islamic State and that both British and French intelligence services had information that the attacker had been in Syria.
Police forensic investigators at an address in Elsmore Road, Greater Manchester, after a suicide bomber killed 22 people, including children, as an explosion tore through fans leaving a pop concert in Manchester Credit: PA
Amber Rudd, the Home Secretary, disclosed that the intelligence services had been aware of Abedi, who had only in the past few weeks returned to the UK after visiting Libya.
Rudd told Sky News: We do know that he was known up to a point to the intelligence services. Ramadan Abedi, the suicide bomber s father who lives in Tripoli, gave a series of interviews yesterday in which he denied his son was to blame. Mr Abedi told Bloomberg: I was really shocked when I saw the news, I still don t believe it.
He was always against those attacks, saying there s no religious justification for them. I don t understand how he d have become involved in an attack that led to the killing of children.
But a friend of the family said Abedi s parents had become so concerned about his behaviour they had ordered him to leave the UK and live with them in Libya. Adel Elghrani said: The father was so concerned he confiscated his passport. But then Salman went to his mother and said that he wanted to go on a pilgrimage to Saudi Arabia and she gave him his passport back and he came to England instead. Abedi then flew back to Britain, carrying out his deadly attack a few weeks later.
Counter-terrorism officers now believe that Abedi rented a flat through Airbnb in the days before the attack and stayed there until around 7pm on the night of the Ariana Grande concert at the Manchester Arena.
He carried the bomb to the destination in a rucksack and detonated it at just after 10.30pm as the US pop star was completing her last song. Sources last night told The Daily Telegraph that there were two separate bomb factories, with the chemicals mixed in the rented Airbnb flat in Granby Row before the bomb itself was assembled elsewhere. It was not clear if the second flat had been discovered.
The photographs of the bomb fragments were leaked to the New York Times hours after Ms Rudd had said leaks of intelligence shared with the US authorities had to stop. It prompted fury in Whitehall, with Ms Rudd and the Attorney General Jeremy Wright understood to be among officials who phoned their counterparts in the US to demand answers. The Daily Telegraph understands that there is such serious concern about the leak that Theresa May will raise it with President Donald Trump when she sees him at a Nato meeting in Brussels today.
A senior Whitehall source described the leak as unacceptable and said the US authorities had been left in no doubt about our huge strength of feeling on this issue .
Government sources accused the US of risking compromising the investigation by repeated leaks.
WAUKESHA, WI Waukesha police had to arrest a security guard in charge of helping to guard the apartment at 322 Maple Ave. after he reportedly pulled a gun and a knife on another security guard because he thought “it would be funny.”
322 Maple Ave. was the apartment structure that caught fire last Saturday. According to the police report, a caller who works for a security company that was guarding the Maple Ave. apartments met another employee in the parking lot Sunday around 11 p.m. when he pointed a black handgun at the woman. She also reported that the same man pulled a knife on her earlier. Police reports indicate the man was located in the Libarary parking lot in his vehicle. Police took him into custody just after midnight.
According to City of Waukesha police reports, authorities responded to the apartments at 322 Maple Ave., Unit 214 at 11:12 p.m. Saturday on a report that the rear of the building was on fire.
The third floor balcony was reportedly on fire, and it was spreading. Authorities shut down traffic at Maple and Dunbar as well as on Prospect as crews hurriedly arrived on scene. According to reports, a manager went into unit 214, did a sweep and did not locate anyone. Reports indicated that the unit is where the fire had originated from. By 11:41 p.m. the fire was under control and investigators arrived just after midnight. they were followed by the Red Cross and We Energies.
image via waukesha police department
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