Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte declared martial law in his country’s south on Wednesday before cutting short a visit to Moscow to rush home and deal with a terrorist siege. Militants linked to the Islamic State terror group reportedly took over a hospital, prison, and other buildings overnight, engaging in a fierce battle with government troops. Authorities said they feared hostages had been taken. Duterte declared martial law in the Mindanao region, where the fighting was under way with extremists in Marawi City. Duterte said martial law could be extended for a year. “I said I would be harsh and I warned everybody not to force my hand into it. I have to do it to preserve the republic,” he said on board a plane back to Manila on Wednesday. The siege coincided with Duterte’s meeting with Russian President Vladimir Putin, whom he asked for assistance in acquiring “modern weapons” to fight the terrorists. At a news conference, Philippine Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana, who accompanied Duterte to Moscow, described a scene of chaos back home. Two soldiers and a police officer were killed in gun battles with the militants, and at least 12 others were wounded, he said. “The whole of Marawi City is blacked out, there is no light, and there are Maute snipers all around,” he said.
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