The violence that began last week has killed dozens. Though most people have left, those still trapped are worried about being intercepted by militants at checkpoints on routes out of the city.

Philippine marines advance their positions to fight the Maute group in Marawi city in the southern Philippines, May 29, 2017.
Philippine marines advance their positions to fight the Maute group in Marawi city in the southern Philippines, May 29, 2017.

The Philippine military said on Monday it was close to retaking a southern city held for a seventh day by militants, as helicopters unleashed more rockets on positions held by the rebels aligned with Daesh.

Members of the Daesh-linked Maute group have been battling the army since last Tuesday. Heavy fighting between the military and rebel groups has killed dozens of people with many more still trapped inside the city.

Though most people have left, those stranded are worried they could be intercepted by militants at checkpoints on routes out of the city.

TRT World's Shamim Chowdhury has more.

Militants went on a rampage

The violence began on May 23, when dozens of militants went on a rampage throughout Marawi after security forces attempted to arrest Isnilon Hapilon, a leader of the Abu Sayyaf kidnap-for-ransom gang.

Hapilon is also believed to be the Philippine head of Daesh and the military is certain that the Maute are protecting him.

​The little-known Maute group has staged similar, days-long sieges on Mindanao island but none on the scale of Marawi, where martial law has been imposed since last Tuesday.

The hunt for Hapilon is on, with Washington offering a $5 million reward for information on his whereabouts.

Thirteen soldiers, two policemen and 51 militants have died in the fighting, according to authorities since Tuesday.

The occupation of Marawi city by the Maute has become the biggest security challenge of Rodrigo Duterte's 11-month presidency, with gunmen resisting air and ground assaults and controlling central parts of the city of 200,000 people.

The Philippine president made an unconventional offer on Saturday to Muslim separatists and communist rebels to join his fight against extremists, and said he would give them the same pay and benefits as government troops.

Source: TRTWorld and agencies