- Week of violence in southern Marawi City claims lives of 85 including police, fighters, women and children, army says.
|Soldiers carry the body of a civilian killed by fighters from the Maute group, which has taken over large parts of Marawi [Reuters]|
The violence prompted President Rodrigo Duterte to declare martial law on Tuesday across the southern third of the Philippines to quell what he said was a fast-growing threat of "militants" linked to the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL, also known as ISIS) group.
Security forces are attempting to flush out rebels of the Maute and Abu Sayyaf armed groups, which have declared allegiance to ISIL.
Authorities said the fighters had killed 19 civilians in Marawi, a mostly Muslim-populated city of 200,000 people.
These included three women and a child who were found dead near a university.
"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 told the AFP news agency.
An AFP photographer saw another eight bodies by a road in the outskirts of Marawi on Sunday, with local residents identifying them as employees of a rice mill and a medical college.
Herrera said the military had yet to investigate the reported deaths.
Thousands flee fighting
The violence began when dozens of gunmen went on a rampage throughout Marawi after security forces attempted to arrest Isnilon Hapilon, a veteran Filipino fighter regarded as the local leader of ISIL.
The gunmen planted black ISIL flags, took a priest and up to 14 other people hostage from a church, and set fire to buildings.
Thirteen soldiers, two policemen and 51 fighters have died in the clashes, according to authorities.
|A resident displays a white flag on rooftop of a house in Marawi City [Reuters]|
The military announced on Saturday, the start of the holy month of Ramadan, that it would intensify the bombing campaign.
"In as much as we would like to avoid collateral damage, these rebels are forcing the hand of government by hiding and holding out inside private homes, government buildings and other facilities," military spokesman Brigadier-General Restituto Padilla said.
"Their refusal to surrender is holding the city captive. Hence, it is now increasingly becoming necessary to use more surgical airstrikes to clear the city and to bring this rebellion to a quicker end."
Duterte and military chiefs have said most of the fighters belong to the local Maute group, which they estimate has about 260 armed followers.
But Duterte has said local criminals are backing the Maute in Marawi.