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Ramos, an ally of Duterte, said: 'We are all victims of martial law.We would be much higher now in the ranking of nations, in the appreciation of other nations for the Philippines, if we did not have martial law.'As a military man, please understand how deep my statements are.Mr Calida said: 'What's happening in Mindanao is no longer a rebellion of Filipino citizens.'It has transmogrified into invasion by foreign terrorists, who heeded the call of the ISIS to go to the Philippines if they find difficulty in going to Iraq and Syria.'President Rodrigo Duterte, who has imposed martial law in the region, said on Friday that he is willing to talk with militants in order to resolve the crisis.'My message mainly to the terrorists on the other side is we can still solve this through dialogue,' he said.Duterte recently warned that ISIS fighters driven from the Middle East would end up in the southern Philippines and his country was at risk of 'contamination'.Convoys of vehicles packed with evacuees and protected by heavily armed soldiers streamed into nearby Iligan City.One Christian resident, Mark Angelou Siega, described how students fled amid fears rebels would take over their university campus.'We were preparing for exams and we could hear the gunfire and bombs,' he said.'We were so scared and so were our Muslim brothers and sisters. These terrorists are not real Muslims.'Solicitor general Calida said the Maute group and Islamic State had a dream to create their own 'ISIS province' in Mindanao and the government was not the only target of their aggression.
At least 21 people have died in fighting that erupted late Tuesday, when the army raided the Marawi hideout of Hapilon.Soldiers were seen crouched behind armoured vehicles and walls around lunchtime on Thursday, firing volleys of gunshots towards elevated positions occupied by Maute rebels. 'We're confronting maybe 30 to 40 remaining from the local terrorist group,' said Jo-Ar Herrera, a spokesman for the military's First Infantry Regiment.'The military is conducting precise, surgical operations to flush them out ... We do not want people to be used as human shields,' Marawi mayor Majul Usman Gandamra said.The situation is very fluid and movements are dynamic because we wanted to out-step and out-manoeuvre them,' he said. Two military helicopters flew above Marawi and armoured tanks churned through its streets as automatic rifle firing could be heard on Thursday, according to an AFP photographer in the city.Do not tell me any of you will enjoy martial law.'Ramos was a former security chief for Philippine dictator Ferdinand Marcos, who also ruled through martial law, before joining the rebellion against him and eventually helping to overthrow him in 1986.Duterte had praised Marcos' use of martial law, which saw billions of dollars plundered from the economy and thousands of opponents detained or killed.
The White House on Thursday said it backed the Philippines in its fight against 'cowardly terrorists'.