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Bodies of executed civilians found

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Victims were pulled off truck for being unable to recite verses from the Quran

MARAWI CITY, PHILIPPINES Bodies of apparently executed civilians were found in a ravine outside the besieged Philippine city yesterday as a six-day occupation by Islamist rebels resisting a military onslaught took a more sinister turn.

The eight dead men, most of them shot in the head and some with hands tied behind their backs, were workers who were stopped by Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS)-linked militants on the outskirts of Marawi City while trying to flee the clashes, according to police.

Nine spent bullet casings were found on a blood-stained patch of road at the top of the ravine.

Attached to one of the bodies was a sign that said "Munafik" (traitor).

Marawi police officer Jamail C Mangadang told Reuters the eight men found dead were carpenters who were part of an evacuation convoy stopped by rebels late on Saturday.

Recalling information provided by their manager, Mr Mangadang said the victims were pulled off a truck because they were unable to cite verses of the Quran.

"We heard gunfire, although I'm not sure if it was the same people who were shot," he said at the scene.

The discovery confirms days of speculation that Maute rebels had killed civilians during a bloody takeover of Marawi City, that the military believes is aimed at winning the Maute recognition from ISIS as a South-east Asian affiliate.

Until the police and the armed forces say the Philippines is safe, this martial law will continue. Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte

The army deployed additional ground troops over the weekend and dispatched helicopters to carry out rocket strikes on Maute positions as fighters held buildings and a bridge deep inside a predominantly Muslim city where few civilians remained.

At least 61 militants and 13 military personnel were killed as of Saturday, according to the army. The number of civilian dead was unknown.

Meanwhile, 2,000 civilians were trapped yesterday in Marawi, AFP reported.

Most of the city's 200,000 residents have fled because of the fighting, but the 2,000 remain trapped in areas controlled by the militants, according to Mr Zia Alonto Adiong, spokesman for the provincial crisis management committee.

"They have been sending us text messages, calling our hotline, requesting us to send rescue teams but we cannot simply go to areas which are inaccessible to us," Mr Adiong told AFP.

"They want to leave. They are afraid for their safety. Some are running out of food to eat. They fear they will be hit by bullets, by airstrikes."

The military announced on Saturday, the start of Ramadan, that it would step up the bombing.

"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," said military spokesman Brigadier-General Restituto Padilla.

"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." - REUTERS

Duterte continues to enforce 
martial law

JOLO, PHILIPPINES Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte has said he will ignore the Supreme Court and Congress as he enforces martial law across the southern third of the country, despite the Constitution giving them oversight.

Mr Duterte on Tuesday imposed martial law in the Mindanao region, home to 20 million people, following deadly clashes in a mostly Muslim-populated city involving militants he said were trying to establish a caliphate for the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS).

"Until the police and the armed forces say the Philippines is safe, this martial law will continue.

"I will not listen to others. The Supreme Court, Congress, they are not here," he told soldiers.

"Are they the ones dying and losing blood, bleeding, haemorrhaging because there is no help, no reinforcement? It's not them."

The 1987 Constitution imposes limits on martial law to prevent a repeat of the abuses carried out under the regime of dictator Ferdinand Marcos, who was deposed by a famous "People Power" revolution the previous year.

The Constitution requires Congress to approve a president's declaration of martial law, and limits military rule for 60 days.

If a president wants to extend it, he or she must again get congressional endorsement.

The Supreme Court can also rule on martial law's legality.