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Singaporeans said to be among militants in Marawi

Terrorist group now includes militants from nearby countries, says military

The Philippine military has said that foreign militant fighters are involved in the clashes that broke out in Marawi in the island group of Mindanao.

Their "clear intention", according to a report President Rodrigo Duterte submitted to Congress, is "to establish an Islamic state (in Mindanao)".

"There are... Malaysians, Singaporeans in the fight that has been ongoing in Marawi.

"We are continuously verifying that there has been a number of them who have been killed," military spokesman Brigadier-General Restituto Padilla said.

About a hundred militants seized large parts of Marawi, a Muslim-majority city of more than 200,000 some 814km south of Manila, on Tuesday, after security forces raided a suspected hideout of Arabic-speaking preacher Isnilon Hapilon, named by the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS) as its top man in South-east Asia.

An army brigade was sent to dislodge them, but they remained holed up in parts of Marawi as of last night.

Mr Duterte, addressing soldiers fighting the militants, said there is still a chance for peace.

"My message mainly to the terrorists on the other side is we can still solve this through dialogue," he said.

Laying down reasons for the need for martial law in Mindanao, Solicitor-General Jose Calida said: "What is happening in Mindanao is no longer a rebellion of Philippine citizens.

"It has transmogrified into an invasion by foreign terrorists who heeded the clarion call of the ISIS to go to the Philippines, if they find difficulty in going to Iraq or Syria."

Asked about the presence of foreign fighters in Marawi, Mr Calida said: "Malaysians, Indonesians, from Singapore, and other foreign jihadists, and that is bothersome.

"Before, it was just a local terrorist group. But now, there is an ideology... They have pledged allegiance to the flag of ISIS. They want to create Mindanao as part of the caliphate."

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