Philippine troops battle ISIS linked gunmen in southern city

The Islamic State-linked Maute group has taken hostages a Catholic priest and four other civilians in Marawi City, Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (ARMM) Regional Vice Gov. Haroun Alrashid Lucman said on Wednesday.

The Catholic Bishops' Conference of the Philippines (CBCP) confirmed a priest based in Marawi City, Lanao del Sur has been taken hostage by the Maute group.

More than a dozen church-goers and a priest are among their hostages.

President Rodrigo Duterte has placed Mindanao and nearby island provinces of Basilan, Sulu and Taw-Tawi in the southern Philippines under martial law, and vowed to be "harsh" in dealing with the local militant group.

The information came from Marawi Bishop Edwin de la Pena, who claimed to have received a call on Tuesday night from one of the captors who introduced himself as "a member of the ISIS".

Fires raged in Marawi but the military and the city's mayor said the situation was now under control.

The Maute group reportedly forced their way into the Cathedral of Our Lady Help of Christians and abducted Father Chito Suganob, vicar-general of the prelature of Marawi, the parish secretary, two students and 10 other parishioners.

He said the group erected Islamic State flags at several locations.

Yesterday's (23 May) raid was aimed at capturing Isnilon Hapilon, a leader of the Abu Sayyaf group notorious for piracy, banditry and for kidnapping and beheading Westerners.

Martial law allows Duterte to use the armed forces to carry out arrests, searches and detentions more rapidly.

The focus of the raid was about 15 militants belonging to the Maute group, which has pledged allegiance to Islamic State in the Middle East.

Chico Dimaro Usman, a resident of Marawi City, posted pictures of black-clad armed men walking the streets of the city.

The declaration will last for 60 days while the details of the proclamation "will be forthcoming", Mr. Abella said.

Duterte, a firebrand native of Mindanao, has often threatened to impose martial law to crush extremists and stop radical Islamist ideology spreading since taking office in June a year ago, prompting concerns by human rights groups that he plans to create a dictatorship in the island nation of 100 million people. He is a commander of the Abu Sayyaf militant group and was wounded by a military airstrike in January.

For his part, Foreign Affairs Secretary Alan Peter S. Cayetano said Mr. Duterte will be cutting short his four-day official visit to Russian Federation because the leader "feels "that he is needed in Manila as soon as possible".

In April, troops backed by airstrikes killed dozens of Maute militants and captured their jungle camp near Lanao del Sur's Piagapo town.

A separate report from the ARMM Heart (Humanitarian Emergency Action and Response Team) disclosed that the five hostages are Fr. Chito Suganob, Prof.