The Latest: Philippine police go on nationwide alert

MANILA, Philippines (AP) — The Latest on the siege of a Philippine city that led President Rodrigo Duterte to declare martial law in the south (all times local):

3:50 p.m.

The 175,000-strong Philippine National Police has been put on full alert nationwide and all unit commanders directed to strengthen security in all vital installations and public places.

The alert follows fighting in southern Marawi city, where Muslim militants abducted a Catholic priest and more than a dozen churchgoers while laying siege to the predominantly Muslim area.

President Rodrigo Duterte has declared martial law in the southern third of the nation and warned he would enforce it harshly.

In metropolitan Manila’s downtown Quiapo district, where a bomb blast earlier this month killed two people and wounded four others in a Muslim community, police Wednesday put up checkpoints, stopping motorists to inspect cars and checking documents of motorcycle riders.

Police said the May 6 blast was sparked by a personal feud, but the Islamic State group claimed its fighters were responsible.

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2 p.m.

A Philippine Roman Catholic church leader says a priest and several churchgoers have been taken hostage from a cathedral by gunmen in a southern city.

Archbishop Socrates Villegas, president of the Catholic Bishops Conference of the Philippines, and another church official said Wednesday that gunmen forced their way into a cathedral in Marawi city and seized the Rev. Chito Suganob and more than a dozen churchgoers and staff as fighting raged between government troops and Muslim militants.

Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte on Tuesday declared martial law in the south because of the militants’ siege on the city. He was returning home from a trip to Moscow to deal with the crisis.
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