MARAWI: Islamist militants holding parts of a Philippine city are killing civilians who try to flee while using others as orderlies and cooks, authorities said Tuesday after the gunmen boasted of executions.
There are up to 1,000 people still trapped in the parts of Marawi city that the militants control, the government said, three weeks after fighting erupted with gunmen going on a rampage and flying black flags of the Islamic State (IS) group.
The militants have defied a US-backed military onslaught, which has seen relentless bombing of the residential areas of Marawi where they are holed up. Authorities say 400 gunmen are estimated to be still there and to be using civilians as slaves.
"Based on the revelations of the trapped civilians we have recovered (rescued), they are being used as orderlies to cook their food, to carry their munitions," local military spokesman Lieutenant-Colonel Jo-ar Herrera told reporters.
At least 26 civilians, 58 police or soldiers and 202 militants have been killed, according to the government.
Five of the civilians were killed on Monday as they made a dash for safety when the militants discovered their hiding place, presidential spokesman Ernesto Abella told reporters in Manila.
"They were going to the river but the militants ran after them and indiscriminately fired at them, killing five and taking the remaining eight as hostages," Abella said.
IS also released a video on Monday via its Amaq propaganda news agency which it said showed jihadists shooting six Christians in Marawi, according to the US-based SITE monitoring service.
A voiceover suggested further executions had taken place off-camera, SITE reported.
There were tearful scenes in Marawi on Tuesday morning after five Muslim policemen and five Christian construction workers sprinted about two kilometres (1.2 miles) from the militant-controlled areas to safety.
"As we were running, the ISIS fired at us," said Marawi police officer Lumna Lidasan, speaking to reporters in between sobs and using an acronym for an alternate IS name.
Lidasan said the policemen could have left earlier because they were Muslim but they feared for the safety of the construction workers.
"They did not speak Maranao (the local Muslim dialect), so I knew they would have been slaughtered," Lidasan said.
Marawi is the Islamic capital of the mainly Catholic Philippines.
It is largely abandoned now, with about 250,000 people having fled the city and nearby areas.
President Rodrigo Duterte declared martial law across the southern Philippines, home to 20 million people, shortly after the fighting erupted to quell what he said was an IS bid to carve out its own territory there.