Nineteen civilians have been killed in a southern Philippine city since ISIS launched an aggression on the city nearly a week ago, the military said Sunday.
After the violence erupted, the President of the Philippines Rodrigo Duterte declared martial law on Tuesday across the southern third of the country in order to quell what he described as the fast-growing threats of ISIS terrorists.
The official death toll since the beginning of the conflict has been at least 85, with 19 civilians in Marawi – a Muslim majority city – including three women and a child.
“These are civilians, women. These terrorists are anti-people. We found their bodies while conducting rescue operations [on Saturday],” regional military spokesman Lieutenant Colonel Jo-ar Herrera said.
The violence began when a number of gunmen went on a rampage across Marawi after the government security forces tried to arrest Isnilon Hapilon, who is known as the local leader of ISIS.
The gunmen set fire to buildings, planted black ISIS flags and took a priest along with 14 other people hostage from a church.
Most of the city’s residents have fled due to the conflict, as the military started to heavily bomb residential areas where the militants were believed to be hiding.