AFP chief: 1 cop killed, 8 troopers wounded in Marawi clash

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(CNN Philippines, May 23) - Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) Chief of Staff Gen. Eduardo Año told CNN Philippines on Tuesday that one policeman was killed in a firefight between government forces and the terror group Maute in Marawi City, Lanao del Sur.

Año also told CNN Philippines eight other government troopers were wounded in the clash, which erupted early afternoon as the lawless elements tried to rescue Abu Sayyaf leader Isnilon Hapilon.

The AFP chief said less than 50 armed men from the Maute group were scattered across the city but the situation has been contained.

"We are in full control, itong mga armadong ito (these armed men), they are trying to distract the troops...We are fully in control, but we are clearing one by one," Año said.

However, in a separate statement, AFP spokesman Brig. Gen. Restituto Padilla said that there were still intermittent gunfires.

"Our operation is still ongoing in Marawi City and sporadic firefight is still continuing," Padilla said.

He added a combined military and police force initiated the operation in Marawi.

"The joint AFP-PNP team that is after Isnilon Hapilon and his cohorts is determined to finish him off," Padilla said.

Earlier, reports said armed men have taken over the Amai Pakpak Medical Center, with the group allegedly replacing the Philippine flag with a black flag, supposedly representing the Islamic State (ISIS).

They have also reportedly blocked checkpoints in the vicinity.

Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) First Infantry Division Spokesman Lt. Col. Jo-Ar Herrera said the firefight started 2 p.m. at Barangay Basak Malutlut.

"Nakatangap po tayo ng report from the community, meron silang nakitang mga armado...na-check po natin na ito pala yung ano, yung core group ng Maute, so nag-launch po tayo ng surgical operation para i-neutralize 'yung grupo na may planong mag-ano ng terorismo sa Marawi City," Herrera said.

[Translation: We received a report from the community, they saw armed men…we checked that this is the core group of Maute, so we launched a surgical operation to neutralize the group planning to incite terrorism in Marawi City.]

Marawi City Mayor Majul Gandamra told CNN Philippines' News Night the hospital under siege was just about 2 km away from the city hall.

A local resident, Chico Usman, told CNN Philippines the group set the Marawi City jail and the Dansalan College on fire.

He added that initially, Maute members told residents to vacate the area as a firefight with the military was about to erupt.

Usman added one member was saying "'Yung mga pulis diyan na matatapang, magsilabasan kayo."

[Translation:All the brave policemen out there, come out here (and fight).]

Meanwhile, Autonomous Region of Muslim Mindanao Regional Governor Mujiv Hataman expressed the "fear and anger" of residents.

"We strongly condemn these acts of terror committed against the people of Marawi City and swear to take immediate action as necessary," he said.