ISIS militants plotted to burn city to the ground to show power in the Philippines

It was a terrorist plot to burn a city of 200,000 people to the ground and ISIS militants were behind it, according to the Associated Press.

Philippines military officials tell NBC News it is close to retaking the southern city of Marawi. This is after ISIS extremists planned to burn the city to the ground in order to show how powerful the terrorist organization is.

See images of life in the city occupied by ISIS:

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Life in Marawi, Philippines
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Life in Marawi, Philippines
Evacuees walk past a government soldier who is manning a checkpoint at a main street of Marawi city, after government troops' continuous assault with insurgents from the so-called Maute group, who has taken over large parts of the city, in Marawi City, southern Philippines May 27, 2017. REUTERS/Romeo Ranoco
Residents load their belongings into a tricycle as they prepare to evacuate Marawi on the southern island of Mindanao on May 26, 2017, as the battle between government troops and Islamist militants continue. Foreigners are among Islamist gunmen battling security forces in a southern Philippine city, the government said May 26 as the reported death toll from four days of clashes climbed to 46. / AFP PHOTO / TED ALJIBE (Photo credit should read TED ALJIBE/AFP/Getty Images)
A man displaced by fighting between government soldiers and Maute group, cooks rice at a makeshift evacuation centre outside a military camp in Marawi City in southern Philippines May 30, 2017. REUTERS/Erik De Castro
Philippine Marines smile at the media near the stronghold of Maute group in Marawi City in southern Philippines May 30, 2017. REUTERS/Erik De Castro
A woman displaced by fighting between government soldiers and Maute group rests near a cat at a makeshift evacuation centre in Marawi City, southern Philippines May 30, 2017. REUTERS/Erik De Castro
A government soldier taking a break stands near a military vehicle inside a military camp in Marawi City, southern Philippines May 30, 2017. REUTERS/Erik De Castro
Residents displaced by fighting between government soldiers and Maute group, fetch water in Marawi City in southern Philippines May 30, 2017. REUTERS/Erik De Castro
Government soldiers fighting the Maute group take a break inside a military camp in Marawi City, southern Philippines May 30, 2017. REUTERS/Erik De Castro
Residents displaced by fighting between government soldiers and Maute group, rest on a hammock outside a military camp in Marawi City in southern Philippines May 30, 2017. REUTERS/Erik De Castro
A cat walks past government soldiers fighting the Maute group in Marawi City, Philippines May 28, 2017. REUTERS/Erik De Castro
Residents who were displaced due to fighting between government soldiers and the Maute militant group, display a white flag at a house in Marawi City in southern Philippines May 28, 2017. REUTERS/Erik De Castro
MARAWI CITY, PHILIPPINES - MAY 26: Residents and security personel attend Friday prayers inside a mosque in a cleared area inside the city, a day before Ramadan, on May 26, 2017 in Marawi city, southern Philippines. Filipino officials announced on Friday that foreign fighters were among the Islamist militants killed in Marawi city during gun battles between ISIS-linked militants and security troops this week. President Rodrigo Duterte had declared 60 days of martial law in Mindanao on Tuesday after local terrorist groups Maute Group and Abu Sayyaf rampaged through the southern city and said that martial law could be extended across the Philippines to enforce order, allowing the detention of people without charge. Based on reports, at least 31 ISIS-linked militants and 13 government troopers have been killed so far while thousands of residents continue to flee from Malawi city. (Photo by Jes Aznar/Getty Images)
Residents who were displaced due to fighting between government soldiers and the Maute militant group, carry plastic containers of water in Marawi City in southern Philippines May 28, 2017. REUTERS/Erik De Castro
Smoke billows behind a mosque in a residential neighbourhood in Marawi City due to fighting between government soldiers and the Maute militant group, in southern Philippines May 28, 2017. REUTERS/Erik De Castro
A resident places empty plastic containers for water inside a vehicle in Marawi City in southern Philippines May 28, 2017. REUTERS/Erik De Castro
A woman rests on a sidewalk in Marawi City as fighting rages between government soldiers and the Maute militant group, in southern Philippines May 27, 2017. REUTERS/Erik De Castro
People stand on a roadside as billowing smoke is seen at the site of fighting between government soldiers and Maute group in Marawi City, southern Philippines May 30, 2017. REUTERS/Erik De Castro
Philippine Marines smile at the media near the stronghold of Maute group in Marawi City in southern Philippines May 30, 2017. REUTERS/Erik De Castro
Residents flee in the residential neighbourhood of Marawi City as fighting rages between government soldiers and the Maute militant group, in southern Philippines May 27, 2017. REUTERS/Erik De Castro
MARAWI CITY, PHILIPPINES - MAY 30: Residents who survived the siege of ISIS-linked militatnts in an evacuation center inside thi city on May 30, 2017 in Marawi city, southern Philippines. Philippine government troops are battling their way as they inch towards the city center where ISIS-linked militants have been holed for nearly a week. The fighting at Marawi city had forced around 85,000 people to seek refuge at evacuation centers in Marawi as the week long gun battles between ISIS-linked militants and security troops rose to around 100 with at least 19 civilians being killed in the fighting, according to local media. Filipino authorities announced around 2,000 people had been stranded amid street battles and air strikes while bodies of foreign Islamist militants were discovered during the ongoing battles in the southern city. President Rodrigo Duterte had declared 60 days of martial law in Mindanao on Tuesday after local terrorist groups Maute Group and Abu Sayyaf rampaged through Marawi city and said that martial law could be extended across the Philippines while thousands of residents continue to flee the crisis in Marawi, which is home to some 200,000 people. Jes Aznar/Getty Images
Residents stand on the rooftop of a house overlooking smoke from burning houses in Marawi City due to fighting between government soldiers and the Maute militant group, in southern Philippines May 27, 2017. REUTERS/Erik De Castro
MARAWI CITY, PHILIPPINES - MAY 30: Residents who survived the siege of ISIS-linked militatnts in an evacuation center inside thi city on May 30, 2017 in Marawi city, southern Philippines. Philippine government troops are battling their way as they inch towards the city center where ISIS-linked militants have been holed for nearly a week. The fighting at Marawi city had forced around 85,000 people to seek refuge at evacuation centers in Marawi as the week long gun battles between ISIS-linked militants and security troops rose to around 100 with at least 19 civilians being killed in the fighting, according to local media. Filipino authorities announced around 2,000 people had been stranded amid street battles and air strikes while bodies of foreign Islamist militants were discovered during the ongoing battles in the southern city. President Rodrigo Duterte had declared 60 days of martial law in Mindanao on Tuesday after local terrorist groups Maute Group and Abu Sayyaf rampaged through Marawi city and said that martial law could be extended across the Philippines while thousands of residents continue to flee the crisis in Marawi, which is home to some 200,000 people. Jes Aznar/Getty Images
Evacuees from Marawi rest at an evacuation centre in Balo-i on the southern island of Mindanao on May 29, 2017. Security forces traded heavy gunfire with Islamist militants inside a southern Philippine city on May 29, as fears grew for up to 2,000 people unable to escape a week of fighting that has left women and children among the dead. / AFP PHOTO / TED ALJIBE (Photo credit should read TED ALJIBE/AFP/Getty Images)
A close-up of a government soldier's bullet bandoliers is seen, as he arranges them on his shoulder, while advancing his position in Marawi City, Philippines May 28, 2017. REUTERS/Erik De Castro
A family from Marawi rest at an evacuation centre in Balo-i on the southern island of Mindanao on May 29, 2017. Security forces traded heavy gunfire with Islamist militants inside a southern Philippine city on May 29, as fears grew for up to 2,000 people unable to escape a week of fighting that has left women and children among the dead. / AFP PHOTO / TED ALJIBE (Photo credit should read TED ALJIBE/AFP/Getty Images)
MARAWI CITY, PHILIPPINES - MAY 28: An empty street that shows evidence of gunfights and of people hastily leaving their belongings on May 28, 2017 in Marawi city, southern Philippines. The Filipino authorities announced on Sunday the official death toll during gun battles between ISIS-linked militants and security troops had risen to at least 85, including executed civilians and foreign Islamist militants among the killed in Marawi city. President Rodrigo Duterte had declared 60 days of martial law in Mindanao on Tuesday after local terrorist groups Maute Group and Abu Sayyaf rampaged through the southern city and said that martial law could be extended across the Philippines while thousands of residents continue to flee from Marawi city. (Photo by Jes Aznar/Getty Images)
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The violence started last week after the army raided the hideout of Isnilon Totoni Hapilon. He had been designated by ISIS as its leader in the country of more than 100 million. He's on Washington's list of most wanted terrorists.

Hapilon escaped. One hundred of his loyal gunmen descended on the city, setting fires and taking hostages.

The military has cleared about 70 percent of the city.

Experts warn that as ISIS weakens in Syria and Iraq, this area in the Philippines could become a focal point for ISIS aligned fighters.

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