Philippines troops have recaptured a key bridge that leads to the main position of Isis-linked militants in the southern town of Marawi. The army has been battling against Maute and Abu Sayyaf militants since May, when fighters seized the town.

The Mapandi bridge leads to the Marawi's interior business district, where between 40 and 60 remaining militants are believed to be holed up, military spokesman Brig. Gen. Restituto Padilla told AP.

He explained the recapture of the bridge will not result in a majour offensive against the fighters as the army wants to ensure it can rescue around 100 civilians still held hostage by the militants. It is believed the abductees are being held in a large mosque.

President Rodrigo Duterte has instructed the army not to launch major attacks against the militants if hostage's lives can be put at risk, even if this will delay the recapture of the town.

Siege of Marawi

The siege of Marawi began on 23 May, when Maute and Abu Sayyaf militants – affiliated to the Isis terror group – seized the town in retaliation to the army's failed attempt to capture terrorist leader Isnilon Totoni Hapilon.

One of the most wanted terrorists in both the Philippines and the US, Hapilon has become increasingly known as the "Emir of the Islamic State forces in the Philippines" after he and Abu Sayyaf pledged allegiance to Isis in 2014.

Isis controls swathes of territories in the Middle East and, through local terror groups, in several African countries.

Following the siege, Duterte declared martial law in the island of Mindanao, where Marawi is located, and accused residents of letting militants shelter in the besieged city.

Fighting has resulted in the death of at least 399 militants, around 100 troops and 45 civilians, the army said earlier in July, according to local media.

More than 200,000 people have been displaced, with the army estimating between 80 and 100 civilians remain trapped in areas where fighting is concentrated. Their lives are at risk due to bombings, starvation and militants' use of civilians as human shields.

On 22 July, Duterte's request to extend martial law in Mindanao until the end of the year was granted, giving greater powers to security forces.

The government ruled out the possibility of negotiating with the militants after reports suggested a rebel leader wanted to trade a Catholic priest – believed to be held hostage by the group – for his parents, held by police.

The priest is understood to be Father Teresito "Chito" Suganob, who was abducted along with other civilians when Maute militants raided Marawi in May. Reports said the priest was seen alive in June.

There is a large population of Muslims in Mindanao, but the rest of the country is predominantly Roman Catholic.

Marawi siege martial law
An Imam prays in front of body bags containing the remains of victims of Marawi siege prior to a mass burial at a funeral parlour in Iligan Ted Aljibe/AFP