* Bodies found in ravine, shot in head, hands tied
* "Traitor" sign left with bodies
* Dead men were part of evacuation convoy
* Fierce fighting between military and rebels
By Tom Allard
MARAWI CITY, Philippines, May 28 Bodies of what
appeared to be executed civilians were found in a ravine outside
a besieged Philippine city on Sunday as a six-day occupation by
Islamist rebels resisting a military onslaught took a more
The eight dead men, most of them shot in the head and some
with hands tied behind their backs, were labourers who were
stopped by Islamic State-linked militants on the outskirts of
Marawi City while trying to flee clashes, according to police.
Nine spent bullet casings were found on a blood-stained
patch of road at the top of the ravine. Attached to one of the
bodies was a sign that said "Munafik" (traitor).
The discovery confirms days of speculation that Maute rebels
had killed civilians during a bloody takeover of Marawi City,
that the military believes is aimed at winning the Maute
recognition from the Islamic State group in the Middle East as a
Southeast Asian affiliate.
The army deployed additional ground troops over the weekend
and dispatched helicopters to carry out rocket strikes on Maute
positions as fighters held buildings and a bridge deep inside a
predominantly Muslim city where few civilians remained.
At least 41 militants were killed and 13 military as of
Saturday, according to the army. The number of civilian dead was
The fierce resistance of the Maute gunmen and the apparent
executions of civilians will add to growing fears that
subscribers to Islamic State's radical ideology are determined
to establish a presence in the southern Philippines, with the
support of extremists from Indonesia and Malaysia.
Marawi police officer Jamail C Mangadang told Reuters the
eight men found dead were carpenters who were part of an
evacuation convoy stopped by rebels late on Saturday.
Recalling information provided by their manager, Mangadang
said the victims were pulled off a truck because they were
unable to cite verses of the Koran, the Islamic Holy text.
"We heard gunfire, although I'm not sure if it was the same
people who were shot," he said at the scene.
"Early in the morning, at 08.20, there are civilians,
concerned citizens, who said 'can you verify these dead
Fierce battles restarted on Sunday as ground troops engaged
Maute fighters with heavy gunfire. Plumes of smoke were seen on
the horizon and helicopters fired at least eight rockets on
A surveillance drone circled the sky above Marawi City. Some
civilians left on foot, others were seen tying white cloths to
poles to distinguish themselves from militants as soldiers
huddled behind armoured vehicles slowly advanced.
An ambulance was seen speeding away from the fighting and
soldiers said a captured militant was inside.
Tens of thousands of people have fled Marawi since Tuesday,
when militants went on the rampage seizing a school, a hospital,
and a cathedral.
Christians were taken hostage, according to church leaders,
and more than 100 inmates, among them militants, were freed when
rebels took over two jails.
Zia Alonto Adiong, a local politician who is coordinating
efforts to get people out of the city, said there were bodies of
dead civilians in Marawi. He criticised the military for
conducting air strikes and for hampering efforts to evacuate
"Some have no food at all. Some fear for their lives," he
said. "This is a conflict that has gone beyond proportion. The
magnitude of the degree of the damage and the people that are
affected ... it's really massive."
The violence erupted in the moments after a failed attempt
by security forces to capture Isnilon Hapilon, a leader of a
radical faction of another extremist group, who the government
believes is Islamic State's point-man in the Philippines.
The military is certain the Maute are protecting Hapilon and
had narrowed down his location. Hapilon leads a radical faction
of another Mindanao-based group, the Abu Sayyaf.
The little-known Maute group has staged similar, days-long
sieges on Mindanao island but none on the scale of Marawi, where
witnesses said flags resembling those of Islamic State had been
flown and some men were wearing black headbands.
The Maute group last year killed 14 people in a bombing in
the president's home city, and its battlefield capability has
been a serious challenge to a military that has far greater
numbers and firepower.
Another concern for the government was the discovery of
foreign fighters with the Maute, among them Indonesians and
Malaysians, suggesting what was once a domestic problem could
mushroom into a larger regional security threat.
(Additional reporting by Erik De Castro in Marawi City and
Manuel Mogato in MANILA; Writing by Martin Petty; Editing by