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Philippine troops battle terrorists in besieged city with helicopters, tanks

MARAWI, PHILIPPINES: Troops backed by attack helicopters and armoured tanks battled Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS) militants inside a southern Philippines city yesterday.

An initial rampage by the gunmen, who have pledged allegiance to ISIS, through the mainly Muslim city of Marawi on Tuesday, prompted President Rodrigo Duterte to impose martial law across the southern third of the Philippines.

Authorities said ending the crisis was proving hard because the militants were holed up in residential buildings, had planted improvised bombs in streets and had taken Catholic hostages.

Two military helicopters flew above Marawi and tanks churned through its streets as automatic rifle firing could be heard.

Marawi has about 200,000 residents but many of them have fled because of the fighting.

Five soldiers and one policemen died in the clashes, while 13 gunmen were killed, said the military.

Authorities have not reported civilian casualties, but the GMA television network showed images of nine people who had apparently been shot dead. The victims had their hands tied together.

There are only between 50 and 100 gunmen, according to various military officials.

The militants are also holding between 12 and 15 Catholic hostages abducted from a church, according to local bishop Edwin Dela Pena.- AFP

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