Local media has reported that Maute terrorists captured nine Christians, tied their hands and shot them dead as chaos continues to engulf Marawi City.
An unverified photograph appears to show the group lying dead in a grassy area. It has been reported that villagers are afraid to move the bodies because terrorists are still in the area.
President Duterte also revealed that a local police chief was caught at a terrorist checkpoint and beheaded yesterday (Wednesday, May 24).
The reports come as 100 US-trained special forces aboard helicopters and armoured tanks battle to retake the besieged southern city from Islamic-State backed militants.
Five soldiers and one policemen died in the clashes, while 13 gunmen were killed, according to the military.
Jo-Ar Herrera, spokesman for the First Infantry Regiment, said: “We are confronting maybe 30 to 40 remaining from the local terrorist group.
“The military is conducting precise, surgical operations to flush them out. The situation is very fluid and movements are dynamic because we wanted to out-step and out-manoeuvre them,” he said.
The initial rampage by the gunmen through the mainly Muslim city of Marawi on Tuesday prompted President Duterte to impose martial law throughout Mindanao.
The Abu Sayyaf sub-leader had travelled from his group’s base on the island of Sulu in a bid to locate a new stronghold for terrorism in the Philippines.
Hapilon — who has a $5 billion FBI bounty on his head — was injured by government forces, but managed to escape. It now seems clear that he was protected by the Maute terror group, which is also affiliated to IS, and taken to Marawi for medical treatment.
The operation to capture him swiftly descended into chaos as dozens of gunmen emerged to repel security forces before going on a rampage across the city while flying the black flag of IS.
Security analysts believe Hapilon has been trying to unite the various Filipino islamist groups under the IS umbrella, which could explain why so many militants were on hand when the security services struck.
Hapilon has continued to evade capture in the latest clashes.
Authorities say ending the crisis is proving difficult as the militants are holed up in residential buildings, have planted improvised bombs and taken hostages — including a Catholic priest and his congregation. It is believed there are no more than 100 gunmen, and possibly as few as 50.
Marawi mayor Majul Usman Gandamra said: “People are afraid. They do not want to open establishments. Offices are closed. We do not want people to be used as human shields.”
Many of Marawi’s 200,000 residents have fled the fighting.
President Duterte, who declared martial law throughout Mindanao after the Marawi crisis broke out, said he may extend it to other parts of the country if extremists seek sanctuary elsewhere.