Posts Tagged ‘Mindanao’

Philippines: Polling Shows People Reject Idea of “Revolutionary Government”

January 13, 2018


President Rodrigo Duterte had warned that he would declare a revolutionary government if “things go out of control.”

Presidential Photo/Ace Morandante, File
Ian Nicolas Cigaral ( – January 13, 2018 – 12:44pm

MANILA, Philippines — More Filipinos oppose the possibility of President Rodrigo Duterte declaring a revolutionary government, a Social Weather Station survey found.

Several times in his public remarks, Duterte has threatened to declare a revolutionary government — a form of self-coup disabling the current government system and Constitution — to quell a supposed conspiracy by his critics to destabilize his administration.

EXPLAINER: Can Duterte declare a revolutionary government?

But Duterte, in an apparent move to douse fears incited by his threat to revamp the government through extraconstitutional means, later called on the military to ignore talks about a revolutionary government.

According to SWS’s fourth quarter survey conducted on December 8 to 16, 39 percent of 1,200 Filipino adults polled said they disagree with the establishment of a revolutionary government.

Meanwhile, 31 percent agree while the remaining 30 percent were undecided.

Based on the findings, SWS said opposition to a revolutionary government was “stronger” among those who are dissatisfied with, or have little trust in Duterte.

Nonetheless, Duterte’s previous plan to create a revolutionary government got support from his home region of Mindanao with a net agreement score of +16.

That was followed by Metro Manila (net -7), Balance Luzon (net -16) and Visayas (net -17).

“Net agreement scores are at single-digit across locale, class, and sex, ranging from net -9 to +4,” the pollster also found.

Duterte earlier slammed those who supposedly took his remarks about founding a revolutionary government “out of context,” saying they just wanted to “draw publicity.”

According to the same SWS poll, 63 percent of respondents, most of whom were from Mindanao, believe that Duterte has plans to change the present government to a new one that he likes.

Awareness of Duterte’s plan to overhaul the government was higher among those with more years of formal schooling, SWS also found.

The survey likewise revealed that almost half of respondents (48 percent) think it is possible to have a revolutionary government under the present Philippine Constitution, while 27 percent said otherwise.

On the other hand, stronger opposition to a revolutionary government was seen among those unaware of Duterte’s plan and those who said such a declaration is not possible under the present Constitution.

READ: Supporters, counterprotesters cross paths as Duterte toys with revolutionary gov’t




Marawi City, The Philippines: Two months after “war” with Muslim rebels, unexploded ordnance and booby traps still not cleared

December 31, 2017

It has been over two months since the Philippine government declared victory over a well-armed and highly motivated cabal of Muslim militants that laid siege to Marawi city. The military has allowed half the city’s more than 200,000 residents to return, but not to the devastated half that is filled with unexploded ordnance and booby traps. What awaits the residents of Marawi is more uncertainty and the ever looming threat that the militants may soon return.

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Marawi: Philippine government troops cleared the area from pro-Islamic State militant groups inside a war-torn area in Marawi city, southern Philippines October 23. ROMEO RANOCO/REUTERS

More than two months have passed since the Philippine government declared victory over a well-armed, well-organised and highly motivated cabal of Muslim militants that laid siege to Marawi.

But the lakeside city, a centre of Islamic heritage in the insurgency-wracked southern island of Mindanao, remains half-empty.

Although the military has allowed half the city’s more than 200,000 residents to return, the devastated half – a sprawling field of debris, unexploded ordnance and booby traps – is still no man’s land.

Post-conflict assessment teams are putting together a plan to rebuild Marawi. Experts estimate it may take anywhere from 50 billion to 90 billion pesos (S$1.3 billion to S$2.4 billion), but they are not sure how long the rebuilding process will take.

A senior military official said the soonest bomb-disposal units can clear the ruins of improvised explosive devices is in April, almost a year from when the militants launched the armed conflict.

For now, the multitude whose lives have been upended by the conflict will have to wait until they are allowed to return to a city pulverised into rubble and dust.

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Ground zero in Marawi, where the fiercest fighting between militants and government troops took place. It now lies in ruins. PHOTOS: LYNE GRACE VERGARA, RAUL DANCEL

Even then, what awaits them is more uncertainty, and the ever looming threat that the militants may soon return. Defence Secretary Delfin Lorenzana said in October that six battalions of troops would remain in Marawi amid President Rodrigo Duterte’s calls for continued vigilance.


Marawi, about a three-hour ride from the nearest airport in Laguindingan town, snakes through provincial districts that are slowly getting a taste of the Philippine success story: A smooth highway, a bounty of tourists, cable TV, schools, a cement plant, a McDonald’s restaurant here and there.

About 30km from Marawi is Iligan, the nearest city and the halfway point from Laguindingan. Here, sheets of tarpaulin, at least 1m wide and 0.5m tall, line the roads every few metres or so, proclaiming the achievement of some Muslim’s son or daughter: a newly minted doctor, nurse, criminologist,engineer.

“It’s in the Maranao culture, to take pride in education, and to serve notice to other clans. People here say that if you have a child who passed a licensure exam, and you did not put up a streamer, you do not love that child,” said driver Jamil Tuano, 35, referring to the ethnic Muslim tribe that forms the bulk of Marawi’s population.

This is why Marawi is sometimes called, jokingly, “the city of streamers and tarpaulins”, he said.

Closer to the city of Marawi, shades of Islamic life fill the landscape: roadside mosques; women in hijab and niqab; men with white, rounded taqiyahs on their heads.

But there are also reminders that this was a conflict zone: trucks filled with soldiers; checkpoints everywhere; a constant traffic of vehicles with markings of aid groups and non-governmental organisations.

On May 23, about 1,000 gunmen stormed and seized large parts of Marawi in an audacious bid to turn the city into a “wilayah”, or province, of the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS). What followed was a war that raged for five months.

By the time the Philippine military declared victory on Oct 23, more than 1,000 militants, government troops and civilians were dead, half of Marawi lay in ruins, and about 400,000 people living in and near the city were displaced.


Beyond the arch that marks Marawi’s borders, life was again stirring when The Sunday Times was there for six days from Dec 12. At the Amai Pakpak hospital, among the first government buildings to be attacked by the militants, there was a constant shuffle of patients, nurses and doctors.

At the sprawling Mindanao State University (MSU), youths loitered along hallways in boisterous groups, chatting, reading, playing the guitar, or checking out someone’s motorcycle.

Inside the university’s campus, which is a city in itself, a business district buzzed with commerce. Long queues were forming in restaurants, and the marketplace was buzzing with activity.

But from across a bridge just a few paces from city hall, devastation met the eye. Referred to either as “ground zero” or the “main battle area”, this was where the fiercest fighting between government troops and the militants took place.

No one is allowed to go there, as security forces continue to sweep the ruins for booby traps and explosives.

Most of those who used to live there are now staying in overcrowded, barely liveable evacuation centres, where resentment has been festering.

“It’s very cold here at night, and we’re sleeping on a hard surface. It’s hard on the body. What we need are mattresses because all we have to sleep on are straw mats,” said Mr Riga Saadodin Panda, 21, an evacuee from Wawalayan Marinaut district, inside ground zero. He and his relatives fled their homes when the militants began herding hostages in the early days of the conflict. They were sent to an evacuation centre in nearby Saguiaran town, where they were given quarters, with over 200 other families. It is located beneath a barebones gymnasium the size of two basketball courts.

They have been there ever since, living off food rations and handouts. Some have started selling donated items like canned sardines, to buy things they need more of, such as diapers.

“We’re sick of sardines,” one evacuee was heard telling a Red Cross volunteer.

A few have been trying to eke out extra money by selling cigarettes, candies and other small items they managed to buy with cash they received from doing menial work for aid groups.

But it is the uncertainty that frustrates them most.

There has been no word on how soon they can return to their homes, or if they will be allowed to at all. Most of them do not own titles to the land they occupied, which is part of a military reservation, and they worry that the military is keen on reclaiming this land.

There has also been no assurance that the government will extend financial aid or loans to help them rebuild their homes.


Frustration has also been growing among those who have managed to return to their homes.

“Our houses were destroyed, looted. When we left, our houses had things in them. When we returned, they were empty,” said Mr Abdullah Sumndad, 45, a “sancopang Marawi”, the equivalent of a datuk.

Ms Nikki de la Rosa, deputy country manager at the World Bank-funded think-tank International Alert, said “a looming land issue will happen with overlapping themes”.

She added: “Revenge killings and clan feuding have been there. The manner by which the reconstruction process will be undertaken should consider identity-based conflict. Otherwise, that will release other sources of violence in the time that people go back to Marawi.”

Mr Francisco Lara, International Alert’s country manager, said: “The big question is really, in terms of looming sources of violence: What role can be given to clans in the rebuilding process?”

He said the government seems to be dealing with Marawi in the same way it dealt with supertyphoon Haiyan in 2013. “Is the government treating this as a natural calamity? I hope not. As much of the work has to be on how to build resilient communities to threats of extremism, not only resilient to rise up again, but able to push back.”

Mr Meher Khatcherian, a protection delegate of the International Committee of the Red Cross, said: “In a conflict area, people need to be assured a lot more security wise, and they need to understand what kind of response is needed, to see something more clear proposed to them put in place, because they can be traumatised, because they have lost a lot, because they might be reluctant to come back to an area, because they’re afraid the same could happen to them again.”


Ms Norma Labao, 67, a retired teacher, was spotted pulling down the steel sheets that cover her store.

“The situation is better now, since the last week of November,” she said. She has managed to re-open her small laundry shop.

“Business has been okay, especially now that it’s always raining,” she said. She earns up to 40 pesos per kilo of clothes and bedding.

Mr Abdullah Mangotara, 32, too, has begun picking up the pieces. He has opened a new Potato Corner’s outlet, offering the fast food franchise’s fries, inside MSU. He lost the first one when war broke out.

“We lost so much. We’re back to zero. The war brought the reality that there is a risk to doing business here.” But he is staying, although he is sending his children away from Marawi “for safety reasons”.

That undercurrent of fear runs across Marawi.

Ms Labao said she is ready to leave at any time. “We hear rumours. We had to leave all of a sudden when the fighting began. Now, we are prepared. If anything happens, we’re ready to go.”



A boy and his sister play near a building in Marawi’s Basak Malutlut district, from where terrorist leaders Isnilon Hapilon and brothers Omarkhayam and Abdullah Maute are said to have plotted the siege of this southern Philippine city.

After the terrorists overran Marawi in May, it took the military five months to retake it, street by bloody street. Two months on, only half of its 200,000 residents have been able to return home.

The devastated half – a sprawling field of debris, unexploded ordnance and booby traps – is still no man’s land.

Our Philippines Correspondent Raul Dancel reports on how Marawi is trying to regain its footing.

Philippines: 17,000 families still in evacuation centers in storm-hit areas — Next storm brewing

December 31, 2017
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A general view of the flooded Municipality of Kabacan, North Cotabato, on the southern island of Mindanao on December 23, 2017, after Typhoon Vinta dumped torrential rains across the island. The death toll from a tropical storm in the southern Philippines climbed swiftly to 133 on December 23, as rescuers pulled dozens of bodies from a swollen river, police said.  Ferdinandh Cabrera/AFP

MANILA, Philippines — Around 17,000 families may welcome 2018 in evacuation centers due to Typhoon Vinta, which caused widespread damage across the country earlier this month.

There were 17,302 families in 90 evacuation centers as of Sunday morning, the National Disaster Risk Reduction Management Council said.

A total of 168,081 families, or around 794,613 people, were affected in 1,151 barangays in the Mimaropa, Central Visayas, Zamboanga Peninsula, Northern Mindanao, Davao, Soccsksargen, and Caraga regions and in the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao.

The tropical storm destroyed 3,584 houses and damaged 3,129.

Vinta left the Philippine Area of Responsibility on the morning of December 24, after battering Mindanao and triggering landslides in Cagayan de Oro City, and in several towns in Lanao del Norte, Lanao del Sur, Zamboanga del Norte and Zamboanga Sibugay provinces.

Initial reports from different local government agencies put the death toll at more than 230, but the NDRRMC said that it is still verifying the numbers.

READ: Vietnam escapes worst typhoon that battered the Philippines

The NDRRMC however noted that flooding in the 239 areas affected by the typhoon had subsided by Sunday morning.

The following areas remain under the state of calamity:

  • Tambulig, Zamboanga del Sur
  • Province of Lanao del Norte
  • Labason, Zamboanga del Norte
  • Salug, Zamboanga del Norte
  • Kabasalan, Zamboanga Sibugay
  • Balabac, Palawan
  • Aborlan, Palawan
  • Bataraza, Palawan
  • Gutalac, Zamboanga del Norte
  • Siocon, Zamboanga del Norte
  • Baungon, Bukidnon
  • Province of Lanao del Sur

The agency also said that the Department of Social Welfare and Development has given worth of P29.8 million in assistance to families affected by the typhoon.

The United Nations Children’s Fund earlier said that it stands ready to provide a relief and deploy field team in the wake of Vinta. The European Union, meanwhile, has pledged P34 million (€570,000) worth of humanitarian aid to Vinta-affected families and communities.

READ: High ‘Vinta’ death toll ‘unacceptable’ amid improved disaster preparedness — Binay

NDRRMC spokesperson Mina Marasigan also stressed the public should heed warnings on a new low pressure area that Pagasa is monitoring.

According to the state weather bureau, the new weather system is expected to develop into a tropical depression within the next 48 hours.

Pagasa also said that new LPA “may cross Mindanao beginning Monday until Tuesday and bring moderate to heavy rains which may trigger flash floods and landslides.”

Philippines: President Duterte won’t rule out nationwide martial law

December 13, 2017
President Duterte peers through the broken muzzle of a rifle after weapons confiscated during the Marawi siege were destroyed at Fort Bonifacio in Taguig yesterday. Krizjohn Rosales

MANILA, Philippines — Martial law in Mindanao can be expanded outside the region if enemies of the state converge and consolidate forces to topple the government, President Duterte said last night, with a warning to terrorists and rebels that the government would be ruthless against those who sow terror in the country.

Backed by the authority to impose military rule in Mindanao for one more year, Duterte did not discount the possibility that martial law could be expanded to the entire country.

“The government will not wait until the dying days of its existence. The government can always prevent that disaster… to what extent, level of atrocities or attacks, it is not for me to say… but the armed forces or the police,” Duterte said at a press briefing in Taguig.

He said he would not wait until the enemies are about to “slit our throat.”

“The existence of our democracy is not the comments of the opposition or those who are against me politically,” Duterte said.

“I will not wait for that day, for that 25th hour, for the hands of the clock to strike, for the bells to toll, to sound your knell of grief…,” he added, paraphrasing the words of author Ernest Hemingway.

The Chief Executive said he would not allow the enemies of the state to infringe on the rights of the people and destroy democracy.

“It is up to the enemies of the state… if the NPA say they are creating in mass numbers, they create trouble and they are armed… and about to destroy its government,” he said, referring to the New People’s Army.

No Christmas truce

Duterte does not see any reason to observe the traditional Christmas truce with the Communist Party of the Philippines and its armed wing, NPA, because the rebels might just take advantage of the situation to consolidate their forces.

“The only reason is you’d give advantage to the enemy. They will take advantage of that lull, giving space, time and motion to move against government forces,” he said.

The President said any decision to expand martial law will depend on the recommendation of the Armed Forces of the Philippines and the Philippine National Police.

“What makes it really very dangerous is if it reaches a level of point of no return for everybody. I will assess or evaluate as the facts come in,” he said.

Duterte noted that the soldiers and the police will be given “rotation” to allow them to spend time with their families.

While he understands the soldiers’ plight, he said members of security forces do not have that kind of luxury of going to their families, even during special occasions.

“The terrorists and the communists are the same. They kill with impunity and rob people,” he said.

Saying that the extremist terrorists and rebels are no different in terms of impunity, Duterte warned that these criminals cannot escape the long arm of the law.

Following the one-year extension of martial law, Duterte hinted that the government forces will be ruthless, if needed, just to prevent the enemies of the state from converging as one in fighting his administration.

“Yes, because they are terrorists… They are there in Mindanao… It’s a different thing there, there is a policy going on there. There is martial law… They are allowed to detain you for so many hours if you are alive. If you are dead, you should be in a funeral (parlor),” he said.

“It is an existing one. It is violence being spearheaded by the NPAs and those who quest for independence, the low sector of the MI(LF) and the MN (LF),” he added, stressing the need to address the issue.

Duterte said Mindanao would be open to all sorts of criminals and noted the danger that the terrorists might travel around Southeast Asia.

With the drug menace adding to the complexity of the problem, Duterte expressed concern that the government will be facing multiple enemies.

“They are scattered everywhere where they kidnap so many people… the vicious cycle of criminality, then Maute and then the remnants of terrorists,” he said.

“That is why Mindanao remains to be… the flashpoint for trouble.”

Duterte shrugged off criticisms hurled against him.

“No rebellion? Count the number of deaths. There is actually rebellion in Mindanao, fighting is going on,” he said.

Duterte thanks Congress

Duterte yesterday expressed gratitude to Congress for its imprimatur on the one-year extension of martial law and the suspension of the writ of heabeas corpus in Mindanao.

“I would like to thank Congress for understanding the plight of the Filipino,” he said a few hours after the supermajority in the Senate and the House of Representatives approved his request.

Duterte declared martial law last May 23 when Islamic State (IS)-inspired terrorists raised flags and attacked Marawi City on the same day. It was extended until Dec. 31 this year after the 60-day provision under the law.

As President, Duterte said he can just order troops to go after the threat groups but he needs the authority to come from Congress.

“Without martial law powers, it would be difficult for us, we can detain people for only a few hours. You think you can really solve the crime of rebellion?” he said, referring to the provisions under the prescribed period on the detention of suspects under current laws.

Duterte spoke before members of the military where he led the ceremonial destruction of weapons seized from the enemies during the operations in Marawi that the Chief Executive proclaimed as liberated from terrorists last Oct. 23.

The one-year extension, according to Duterte, is a “big window for all of us” to address the problem.

“I am not a dreamer but the reality of one year, if it’s one year, if the fighting is continuous, you’ll run out of people and weapons,” he said.

The commander-in-chief said he is ready to deploy the military’s 23 new attack helicopters to neutralize the enemies.

Now that he has acquired attack helicopters, Duterte said he will deploy them in Mindanao to turn the terrorists into “practice targets.”

“Patayan pala ang gusto ninyo (So, you want killing),” he said, adding that he wanted to purchase 50 more such helicopters if the government has enough funds.

Aside from the communists, Duterte appealed for more time to reach an agreement with the two Moro groups in the country.

“Bear with me, I will be dwelling on reality,” he added.

Prior to this, Malacañang called on Filipinos to continue to support the move to extend martial law in Mindanao in a bid to quell the continuing rebellion in the region.

“Public safety is our primordial concern; thus, we ask the public to stand behind the administration and rally behind our defenders to quell the continuing rebellion in Mindanao,” presidential spokesman Harry Roque said.

He also outlined the reasons such as the urgent need to eradicate the DAESH-inspired Da’awatul Islamiyah Waliyatul Masriq and other like-minded local/foreign terrorist groups and armed lawless groups, and the communist terrorists and their coddlers, supporters and financiers; and ensure the unhampered rehabilitation of war-torn Marawi and the lives of its residents.

“This is everyone’s shared responsibility. Together, we will prevail,” Roque said.

Philippines Faces Steep Task Rebuilding City Wrested From Islamic Militants

December 10, 2017

Battle for Marawi left southern city ruined and residents displaced, fueling fears of new Islamic insurgency if government doesn’t hold to promises

Part of the Grand Mosque in the southern Philippine city of Marawi was heavily damaged by more than five months of intense airstrikes and firefights between government troops and Islamic State-inspired militants.

MARAWI, Philippines—The Philippine military scored a victory against international extremism when it drove Islamic State-linked fighters from this city in October, but that success is now in peril as the government discovers as many pitfalls in rebuilding Marawi as in liberating it.

The city was decimated in the battle, fought over five months with U.S. surveillance support. The government is now turning to the task of rebuilding and resettling nearly 400,000 people displaced by the fighting, while it pushes for new legislation that would give greater autonomy to marginalized Muslim-majority areas of Mindanao, the Philippines’ southernmost main island, in the hope of deterring future conflict.

How it meets those challenges, residents and community leaders say, will determine whether the victory in Marawi can be a springboard to longer-term peace or end up providing new fervor for an insurgency inspired by Islamic State.

A Philippine government soldier inspecting the destruction caused in Marawi by months of heavy fighting between the military and Islamic militants.

The rebuilding process is beginning to fray before new bricks are laid, as sentiment turns against the government for what many residents see as its heavy-handed use of airstrikes in the campaign to recapture Marawi.

“We hate ISIS, but we also know the one who destroyed our homes, our properties, is the military, by using the airstrikes,” said Agakhan Sharief, a Muslim leader who served as an intermediary in unsuccessful talks between the militants and the government. “If they don’t fulfill what they have promised to the victims of Marawi city, [residents] could be turning to more radicalization.”

Officials say Islamist groups are already seeking to recruit young men from the many refugee camps crowded with people who lost their livelihoods in the battle.

Government soldiers in trucks last month examine the damage caused by months of fighting in the city of Marawi.

The cramped conditions in the camps feed frustration. Fever and flu are rampant and jobs are scarce. Each family is given either an outdoor tent or a tight space in a hall, separated from the next family by a thin piece of shoulder-high plywood. While food and water are provided, privacy is impossible. Many residents own nothing but the clothes they were wearing when they fled.

Much of Marawi remains closed as soldiers sweep for improvised explosives. The city was attacked on May 23 by hundreds of militants funded and inspired by Islamic State, who were joined by dozens of foreign fighters seeking to declare a caliphate, or Islamic kingdom. At least 165 Philippine security personnel and 47 civilians died in the ensuing battle, as well as nearly 1,000 militants.

Aerial bombardment left the city in ruins. The worst-hit area is almost devoid of life, save for wild dogs and mosquitoes. Every building has been severely damaged, with the belongings of former residents strewn on roadsides and hanging from windows.

Some people have been allowed to return to the few reopened parts of the city, only to find rubble where their homes used to be.

Hadj Esmail M. Abaton, 77, returned to his house in late November to find almost everything destroyed. The metal roof had fallen in, charred belongings dotted the floor and broken furniture was rusting away. Like most Marawi residents, the former textiles trader had no insurance.

“When we saw the house we cried because all of our effort and all our belongings are gone,” he said, flanked by four generations of relatives who lived in the house with him. “This is not just a house. This is our roots and all our hard work.”

While Mr. Abaton said he didn’t know who was responsible for destroying his house, his younger relatives blame the military. Found in the rubble were the remains of an artillery shell, a weapon used by the Philippine armed forces but not the militants.

Maisara Palala, 70, resting last month with her disabled son, Tao, 30, inside their makeshift shelter at an evacuation center in the town of Pantar outside Marawi.

A spokesman for the military didn’t directly address queries about public opinion or the airstrikes. The military has defended its use of airstrikes, noting the high-risk nature of close-quarters urban warfare.

Many displaced citizens lack documentation proving ownership of their land and worry it will be taken away when the city is rebuilt, though the government has assured them of fair treatment. Even if they can lay claim to their former homes, the process will take longer than many think, officials say. Millions of tons of rubble will need clearing, a dangerous task in light of the unexploded ordnance and improvised explosives left in structures.

“The reconstruction will take years,” said Felix Castro, a retired general now charged by the government with coordinating reconstruction. “It is very difficult considering the rubble. This is why the civilians are not allowed to return.”

In an interview in the bullet-strafed remains of Marawi’s Grand Mosque, Mr. Castro said the government hasn’t worked out how much the process will cost, though some estimates place it at up to $1.8 billion. He said a master plan for the city’s reconstruction is expected by March. The U.S. has promised $14.5 million in rehabilitation aid.

Dsiplaced Marawi residents living last month under cramped conditions in a makeshift evacuation center in Balo-i, north of Marawi.

Meanwhile, nearly 1,200 temporary shelters are being built for displaced people and more than 2,700 permanent houses are planned, to be funded by an undisclosed private donation.

Some residents say the government failed to heed warnings that the militants’ offensive was looming, such as local radio broadcasts warning of an attack and text messages militants sent urging their families to take shelter. There are signs the government was aware of the threat but didn’t adequately prepare to confront it. In December 2016, more than five months before the battle, President Rodrigo Duterte, in a show of bravado, told a business conference the militants “said that they will go down upon Marawi to burn the place, and I said: ‘go ahead, do it.’”

The government’s spokesman didn’t respond to multiple requests for comment.

Recent reports from human-rights groups about soldiers torturing or executing civilians have further fanned hostility toward the liberators. The military said it welcomes any probe and doesn’t tolerate rights violations.

Some displaced Marawi residents working last month to build temporary shelters outside the city.

Underlying this broad distrust are decades of marginalization of the minority Muslim population of the southern Philippines by successive governments, including the colonial authorities of Spain and the U.S., which governed the country successively for about 350 years.

That experience spawned dozens of separatist groups before the recent wave of violent extremists inspired by Islamic State. Once-violent older groups that have rejected the extremists, such as the Moro Islamic Liberation Front, or MILF, have sought peace in exchange for autonomous government.

An agreement on self-rule for the small majority-Muslim part of the country has been reached, but the Philippine Congress has been slow to pass the necessary legislation. MILF leaders warn they could lose control over their fighters if the legislation doesn’t pass.

The battle with Islamic State-linked groups has moved to marshlands south of Marawi, where MILF and government troops are allied in a firefight against militants who either didn’t join the battle in Marawi or escaped it.

Mr. Duterte has urged lawmakers to move fast on the legislation granting self-rule to the Muslim regions. If it doesn’t pass soon, he said in October, “we are headed for trouble.”

A government soldier takes in Marawi’s destruction.

Write to Jake Maxwell Watts at

Roadside bomb injures 7 Marines in southern Philippines

December 9, 2017

Members of Philippine Marines walk next to an armored fighting vehicle (AFV) as they advance their position in Marawi City, Philippines, May 28, 2017. (File photo by Reuters)

MANILA: Seven Marines were injured in a roadside bomb explosion before dawn on Saturday in a village in Maguindanao province in the southern Philippines.

This comes as the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) recommended the extension of martial law in Mindanao amid continued threats posed by militant groups such as the Daulah Islamiyah, the Maute Group, the Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters and the Abu Sayyaf Group.
Members of the Marine Battalion Landing Team 5 were reportedly on patrol when a roadside bomb exploded.
The wounded Marines were rushed to hospital. Authorities have yet to identify the perpetrators.
AFP spokesman Maj. Gen. Restituto Padilla said Maute remains a threat, although its capabilities and manpower have been significantly degraded.
“Those who survived (the Marawi) siege remain at large, and are attempting to recover by recruiting (others),” he said.
Padilla also cited an increase in violent acts perpetrated by communist rebels following President Rodrigo Duterte’s declaration to formally end peace talks with the National Democratic Front, the Communist Party of the Philippines and the New People’s Army.
“Increasing violence initiated by the left is something to watch out for, and something we have to prepare for and confront,” Padilla said.
Zia Alonto Adiong, Lanao Del Sur first district assemblyman, said Maute remains a threat despite Duterte declaring Marawi liberated from the Daesh-backed group.
“Peace and order have yet to be stabilized” in Marawi, he told Arab News. “If it requires martial law to be extended in order to guarantee the safety of our people and that recovery efforts won’t be interrupted, then let’s have it extended.”
Duterte placed Mindanao island under martial law on May 23, a day after the Marawi siege began. It is due to expire on Dec. 31.

Philippines’ Duterte tells Muslims he will correct ‘historical injustice’

November 27, 2017


© AFP/File | Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte’s warning came just a month after foreign and local IS supporters ravaged Mindanao’s main Muslim city of Marawi

SULTAN KUDARAT (PHILIPPINES) (AFP) – Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte vowed to correct “historical injustice” in a speech to Filipino Muslim rebels on Monday as his government seeks to reignite a stalled peace process in the nation’s troubled south.

He made the remarks at a mammoth gathering hosted by the country’s main Muslim guerrilla group, the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF), but which has also brought together Christians, rival Muslim factions and tribal groups from the southern region of Mindanao.

Since the 1970s, Muslims have been waging a rebellion seeking autonomy or independence in the southern areas of the mainly Catholic Philippines that they regard as their ancestral homeland.

The conflict has claimed more than 120,000 lives and left large areas of Mindanao in poverty.

Duterte, who boasts of having Muslim ancestry, warned that the region could see worse violence if the issue is not resolved.

“What is at stake here is the preservation of the Filipino republic and to correct historical injustice,” he said.

Duterte said that during the decades when the Philippines was under Spanish and then American colonial rule, the Christian majority had taken control of vast parts of Mindanao, leaving native Muslims and other tribes marginalised.

He also warned that the violence could be exacerbated if Islamic State followers flee to the Philippines after losing their bases in the Middle East.

– Islamic State threat –

Duterte’s warning came just a month after the foreign and local IS supporters who ravaged Mindanao’s main Muslim city Marawi were defeated in October, ending a five-month conflict which left about 1,100 people dead.

The 10,000-strong MILF signed a peace deal in 2014 that would give the nation’s Muslim minority self-rule over parts of Mindanao, but the proposed law to implement the pact has not managed to get through Congress.

The immediate objective of Monday’s rally was to build support for the proposed law.

Duterte said he would work for the law’s passage, even calling Congress to a special session where Muslim leaders could explain their plans to the legislators.

Such an agreement must be “inclusive” and acceptable to all groups in Mindanao, he added.

Speaking at the event, MILF chairman Murad Ebrahim recalled that many of those attending had fought in the Muslim guerrilla wars in decades past.

But he said they are now pushing for the autonomy law, stating “it presents us the rare opportunity to be part of the noble endeavour of peace-making”.

Hundreds of thousands of people attended the gathering at the main MILF base where a festive mood prevailed despite the history of conflict.

The MILF previously said half a million had registered to attend.

Unarmed MILF fighters accompanied by armed government soldiers and policemen secured the event, which was attended by Cardinal Orlando Quevedo — the archbishop of Cotabato and Mindanao’s highest Catholic Church official — as well as members of the MILF’s main rival, the Moro National Liberation Front.

“The importance here is that there is coexistence between Christians, Muslims and Lumads (tribal people),” said Carlos Sol, director of the government’s coordinating committee overseeing the peace accord.

Philippines: Fears of another Marawi as Islamic State militants regroup, plan suicide bombings

November 5, 2017

By Amy Chew
Channel News Asia

In the first of a three-part series on the changing security situation in the southern Philippines, Channel NewsAsia’s Amy Chew looks at the possibility that Islamic extremists could be regrouping to fight new battles.

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Government soldiers stand in front of damaged houses and buildings in Marawi city, Philippines, Oct 25, 2017. (Photo: Reuters / Romeo Ranoco)

COTABATO CITY, Philippines: It was mid-morning when two cars suddenly drove up and parked next to each other outside Notre Dame University, one of the oldest universities in Cotabato City.

Eight to 10 young men came out of the cars. One of them draped the black flag of Islamic State (IS) behind his back and walked up and down the street together with his friends.

“It was like a parade to show off the flag. People stopped to stare at them,” a local resident who witnessed the incident told Channel NewsAsia.

“The parade lasted about 10 minutes before they returned to their cars and drove off,” said the resident, who declined to be named.

The incident last month unnerved the community and left people worried that pro-IS groups on Mindanao island in the southern Philippines may be trying to stage another Marawi-style attack to take over a city.

“I must plan for an exit strategy, like get a job in another city in case the worst happens,” said the resident.

On May 23, pro-IS groups led by the Maute Group, founded by brothers Omar and Abdullah Maute, and Isnilon Hapilon of the Abu Sayyaf Group (ASG) attacked Marawi, located some 155km away from Cotabato City.

It took the Philippine military five months before it could seize control of the city from the militants on Oct 17.

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Philippine marines from the Marine Battalion Landing Team stand to attention during their arrival from Marawi at port area in metro Manila, Philippines October 30, 2017. REUTERS/Dondi Tawatao

The siege killed more than 1,100 people, including 920 militants, 47 civilians and 165 troops, and displaced another 400,000 people.

Both Maute brothers and Isnilon were also killed.

But that has not ended the battle against militants in the region as those who have escaped have raised concerns where they have resettled. Among those cities where militants have sought refuge is the southern city of Cotabato.


Concerns about the threat of spreading violence in the southern Philippines have been raised across the region, with comments from Singapore’s Home Affairs and Law Minister K Shanmugam typical of what has been said.

“You’ve got the situation in Marawi, you’ve got the situation in Rakhine State (in Myanmar), and it’s going to attract fighters, extremists, would-be terrorists to go to these places to fight,” he said in September. “And once they come to this region, then they will try to spread out to other targets too,” he added.

Analysts believe that while the situation in Marawi has been brought under control by the Philippine military, the threat is far from over.

“Cotabato City is in serious trouble. It is badly infiltrated by pro-IS groups,” said Professor Rommel Banlaoi, head of the Philippine Institute for Peace, Violence and Terrorism Research.

“Many of the (IS) escapees from Marawi, including one Maute brother, are being sheltered in Cotabato City where they are actively recruiting new recruits,” Prof Banlaoi added.

The Marawi siege exposed the depth of IS penetration into southern Philippines, where it plans to set up a Southeast Asia caliphate.

Former Jemaah Islamiyah (JI) militants told Channel NewsAsia in an interview that Mindanao is the only place in ASEAN where IS can carve out a wilayat, or province, given its porous borders, large ungoverned spaces and abundant guns, ammunitions and explosive materials available for sale in the black market.


“The pro-IS groups are trying to stage another Marawi-style attack in other cities. They have lots of money to fund more attacks as they looted billions of pesos from Marawi during the siege,” a senior security source told Channel NewsAsia.

Residents of Marawi typically do not trust banks and many of them stash their cash in vaults kept in their homes, according to the source.

“The money was looted from the vaults installed in the homes of individuals and there were many of them,” the source added.

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Bombed-out buildings in Marawi after the siege AFP/TED ALJIBE

Armed Forces of the Philippines Chief of Staff General Eduardo Año said IS gave the Maute group at least US$1.5 million for the Marawi siege.

As IS loses territory in the Middle East, its funds are expected to dwindle and some believe it will not have the same resources to fund attacks in Philippines.

But according to the security source, money and weapons looted from the Marawi siege are “more than enough” for IS groups to stage terror attacks in the Philippines.

“IS groups have more than enough money. They also receive funds from wealthy individuals in the country. Not only that, they also looted weapons from Marawi so they do have weapons as well,” the security source added.

While it would be difficult for the IS groups to take over an entire city like in Marawi, they have the capacity to take over parts of a city, according to the security source.

“I also expect IS-inspired lone wolves to target Metro Manila for attacks,” the source added.


Inside buildings abandoned by IS militants in Marawi city, the military is finding a treasure trove of information on terror plots outlined in documents left behind by the militants.

“I am looking at three major scenarios based on confiscated documents found in various buildings in Marawi city,” said Prof Banlaoi of the Philippine Institute for Peace, Violence and Terrorism Research.

“One of the activities they (IS) want is to promote suicide bombings by lone wolves, the use of IEDS (improvised explosive device) and the use of fire bombs,” added Prof Banlaoi.

“The targets for attacks are Davao City, the hometown of Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte, to send a message of “retaliation,” he said. “The other targets are the provinces of Maguindanao, Sultan Kudarat, General Santos City and Zamboanga.”

Apart from recruitment, IS groups are also focusing on conducting training, particularly for bomb-making, he said.


As urban dwellers brace for possible IS-inspired attacks, heavy clashes are taking place in the jungle marshlands in Maguindanao province between IS and the military.

Maguindanao is located just outside of Cotabato city. The military has joined forces with its former enemy, the separatist Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF), the largest armed group in Mindanao, to fight against the IS groups.

Abi, a MILF fighter, spent one month in the jungles fighting 500 IS militants in Datu Salibo, Maguindanao province from 3 Sep to Oct 2.

He described the IS fighters as “very well-trained and well-armed.”

“There were many IS fighters and they were very well-trained, well-armed and well-organised. They had many guns, ammunitions, explosives and bombs. They rigged a large area with bombs,” said Abi, shaking his head with disbelief as he recounted his experience.

“These IS fighters are experts in making bombs. They also had snipers,” said Abi as he sat beneath a tree on the outskirts of Cotabato City. He also saw fighters as young as 13 years old.

“The fighters were dressed in black and sported long beards and long hair. They flew the black flags of IS in their area,” said Abi.

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Graffiti is seen on a wall of a back-alley as government soldiers continue their assault against the Maute group in Marawi City, Philippines in June. (File photo: REUTERS/Romeo Ranoco)

“Every single fighter had a bullet-proof vest on … they must have a lot of money to be able to afford those vests,” said Abi.

As he was speaking, Abi threw a quick look around his surroundings.

“IS spies are everywhere. There are many of them. One needs to be careful,” he said.

“IS is offering people 100,000 pesos (US$1,950) to join them. They also promised new recruits they would get a monthly allowance of 30,000 pesos,” said Abi. “Many people on Mindanao island have been recruited by them.”

According to the military, clashes in Datu Salibo erupted on Aug 2 when the pro-IS Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters (BIFF) tried to hoist the black flag of IS in the area.

BIFF is a splinter group of MILF.

“Heavy fighting ensued. Air support was also called in,” Lieutenant-Colonel Gerry Besana, Joint Task Force Central spokesman, told Channel NewsAsia.

“Fifty one BIFF members were killed … while the MILF lost 20 men,” said Besana. While there is a lull in military operations, the battle is not yet over. “We expect operations to resume within the next 15 days,” Besana added.


The participation of MILF in the fight against terrorism in Mindanao has provided crucial mass support, said Prof Banlaoi.

“And having the MILF on your side is already a good advantage. They provide military support, intelligence support, they know the terrain, they know people in the terrain as they are fighting their former brothers,” he added.

According to Prof Banlaoi, at least 21 militant groups have pledged allegiance to IS.  Of the 21, four are deemed to be the most dangerous.

The four are:

  • Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters
  • Abu Sayyaf Group faction previously led by the late Isnilon Hapilon
  • Khilafah Islamiyah Mindanao (KIM)
  • Ansarul Khilafah Philippines (AKP)

As IS territories began to crumble in the Middle East, the global terror group called on its followers to make their way to the southern Philippines, the new land of jihad.

Malaysian police have arrested at least five men for attempting to travel to southern Philippines to join the pro-IS faction of the Abu Sayyaf Group (ASG)

“To date, we have arrested one Malaysian, two Indonesians, two Bangladeshis who tried to make their way to southern Philippines to join the pro-IS faction of the Abu Sayyaf Group (ASG),” Ayob Khan Mydin Pitchay, head of counter-terrorism division of Special Branch, told Channel NewsAsia.

Special Branch is the intelligence arm of the Royal Malaysian Police.

And while more suspected extremists are being held, there are claims that new destinations are in the spotlight.

Indonesian Ali Fauzi, a former MILF fighter and member of Jemaah Islamiyah (JI), the terror network behind the 2002 Bali bombings, told Channel NewsAsia, Indonesians were heading for Zamboanga city and Basilan island in southern Philippines.

“I’ve heard that a group is heading towards Zamboanga, Basilan island and its surrounding area,” Fauzi told Channel NewsAsia.

“They (militants) feel much safer there as many locals will protect them,” he said.

Source: CNA/ac


The main battle area in the southern city of Marawi on Oct. 25, after the Philippines’s military proclaimed the fighting over against militants backed by the Islamic State. CreditTed Aljibe/Agence France-Presse — Getty Images

See also:

Unexpected Benefits From a Battle Against ISIS

At source:

Mattis says to discuss N. Korea threat on Philippines trip — Praises the Philippines for its successes in battling Islamic State in Marawi

October 23, 2017


Image result for james mattis, philippines, photos

US Secretary of Defense James Mattis

CLARK (PHILIPPINES) (AFP) – US Secretary of Defense James Mattis said Monday that curbing military threats from North Korea would be high on the agenda on his Asian tour this week, ahead of a visit by Donald Trump.

Tension has been high on the divided peninsula for months with Pyongyang staging its sixth nuclear test and launching two ICBMs that apparently brought much of the US mainland into range.

Trump and the North’s leader Kim Jong-Un have meanwhile traded threats of war and personal insults.

Mattis, on his way to the Philippines for security talks with Southeast Asian defence ministers, said he would discuss the “regional security crisis caused by reckless… North Korea” among other issues.

At the forum, Mattis is also expected to hold three-way talks with his counterparts from South Korea and Japan — key US allies in Asia — before visiting Seoul for annual defence talks.

“We will discuss… how we are going to maintain peace by keeping our militaries alert while our diplomats — Japanese, South Korean and US — work with all nations to denuclearise the Korean peninsula,” Mattis told reporters on his aircraft.

He stressed the international community’s goal was to denuclearise the flashpoint region, adding: “There is only one country with nuclear weapons on the Korean peninsula.”

Mattis’ visit to Seoul comes ahead of Trump’s first presidential trip to Asia next month, which also includes South Korea. All eyes will be on Trump’s message to the isolated North.

His recent remark that “only one thing will work” with North Korea fuelled concerns of a potential conflict.

But even some Trump advisers say US military options are limited when Pyongyang could launch an artillery barrage on the South Korean capital Seoul — only around 50 kilometres from the heavily fortified border and home to 10 million people.

The defence ministers from the 10-member Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN), meeting in the northern Philippine city of Clark ahead of talks with Mattis, issued a strong statement against North Korea on Monday.

“(We) express grave concerns over the escalation of tensions in the Korean Peninsula including the testing and launching by the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (DPRK) of intercontinental ballistic missiles (ICBM) in addition to its previous nuclear tests and ballistic missile launches,” the joint declaration said.

“(We) strongly urge the DPRK to immediately comply with its obligations arising from all the relevant UN Security Council Resolutions.”

Mattis met with his counterparts from ASEAN on Monday afternoon.


U.S. defense chief Mattis praises Philippines for success in Marawi

Mattis: ‘It was a very tough fight as you know in southern Mindanao. And I think the Philippine military sends a very strong message to the terrorists.’

Published 12:59 PM, October 23, 2017
Updated 1:00 PM, October 23, 2017

PENTAGON CHIEF. In this file photo, U.S. Defense Secretary James Mattis arrives on Capitol Hill, October 20, 2017 in Washington, DC. Drew Angerer/Getty Images/AFP

PENTAGON CHIEF. In this file photo, U.S. Defense Secretary James Mattis arrives on Capitol Hill, October 20, 2017 in Washington, DC. Drew Angerer/Getty Images/AFP

CLARK, Philippines – US Defense Secretary James Mattis on Monday, October 23, praised the Philippines for its successes in battling Islamic State (ISIS) supporters, as he began an Asian trip aimed at reaffirming American support for regional allies.

Image result for Soldiers stand on guard in front of damaged buildings after government troops cleared the area from pro-Islamic State militant groups inside a war-torn area in Bangolo town, Marawi City, southern Philippines October 23, 2017. REUTERS/Romeo Ranoco

Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte announces the end of the battle for Marawi

Mattis echoed Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte’s statement last week that Filipino forces had “liberated” the southern city of Marawi, after 5 months of bitter urban fighting that had claimed more than 1,000 lives, even though battles have continued.

 Image result for Soldiers stand on guard in front of damaged buildings after government troops cleared the area from pro-Islamic State militant groups inside a war-torn area in Bangolo town, Marawi City, southern Philippines October 23, 2017. REUTERS/Romeo Ranoco
Damaged houses and buildings are seen after Philippine government troops cleared the area from pro-Islamic rebels. Reuters photo

“One of the first things I’m going to do when I get there is commend the Philippine military for liberating Marawi from the terrorists,” Mattis told reporters on the flight to the Philippines, according to an official transcript.

“It was a very tough fight as you know in southern Mindanao. And I think the Philippine military sends a very strong message to the terrorists.”

Gunmen who had pledged allegiance to ISIS occupied parts of Marawi, the largest Islamic city of the mainly Catholic Philippines, on May 23 in what Duterte said was a bid to establish a Southeast Asian caliphate there.

Hundreds of insurgents withstood a US-backed military campaign, including near daily air strikes and artillery fire, that displaced more than 400,000 people and left large parts of Marawi in ruins.

Duterte last week travelled to Marawi to declare it had been “liberated”, a day after the Southeast Asian leader for ISIS, Isnilon Hapilon, was shot dead there.

Image result for Soldiers stand on guard in front of damaged buildings after government troops cleared the area from pro-Islamic State militant groups inside a war-torn area in Bangolo town, Marawi City, southern Philippines October 23, 2017. REUTERS/Romeo Ranoco

Philippine troops at work

However deadly fighting has continued, with the military reporting dozens of militants are still resisting in a small pocket of the city.

Mattis flew to the Philippines to attend a meeting hosted by Southeast Asian defense ministers at the former American military base of Clark, two hours’ drive north of Manila.

The Philippines is a former American colony and the two nations are bound by a mutual defense treaty.

But relations have soured under Duterte as he has sought to build closer ties with China and Russia.

Defense ministers from Australia, China, India, Japan, New Zealand, South Korea and Russia are also scheduled to attend the two-day Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) event.

Mattis’ Asia trip, which will also take him to Thailand and South Korea, comes ahead of US President Donald Trump’s visit to Asia next month.

Some American allies in the region have become wary of Trump’s interest in Asia.

Mattis sought to reassure allies.

“The US remains unambiguously committed to supporting ASEAN,” Mattis said. –

Inside Islamic State’s Other Grisly War, a World Away From Syria

October 18, 2017

Islamists in the Philippines pledged allegiance to ISIS, devastated a city and built a model for jihadists after the fall of Raqqa

Image may contain: one or more people, house and outdoor

MARAWI, Philippines—On the third day of his captivity, during one of the most violent jihadist rebellions outside the Middle East and Africa, Ronnel Samiahan watched Islamist militants make an example of a fellow hostage who had tried to break free.

After dragging the conscious man onto the street and pulling his head up by the hair, the militants began sawing at his neck with a knife. Five minutes later, the executioner thrust the severed head toward the remaining hostages, warning, “If you try to escape, this is what is going to happen to you,” recalled Mr. Samiahan, a Christian local laborer.

Islamist militants took over this city of 200,000 people in late May, modeling themselves on Islamic State, or ISIS. Philippine soldiers, assisted by the U.S. military, struggled to reclaim it.

The Philippine military has struggled to defeat hundreds of well-armed militants who seized the southern city of Marawi in May. Photo: Linus Guardian Escandor II for The Wall Street Journal

Philippine authorities on Monday said two of the militants’ most senior leaders had been killed, including one on Washington’s list of most-wanted terrorists, and that it was a few days from securing the city. Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte on Tuesday declared the city liberated.

The militants’ occupation—and the military’s siege—has left Marawi in ruins, with more than 1,000 soldiers, civilians and militants killed and many neighborhoods devastated by airstrikes. A few dozen militants remain in the city, the military said on Tuesday.

The Marawi battle shows how militant groups outside the Middle East and Africa are finding a template in Islamic State, not just as an exporter of terrorism, but also as a holder of territory. ISIS itself is looking for new beachheads having been pushed out of strongholds such as its de facto capital of Raqqa, Syria, which U.S.-backed forces said they captured this week.

“They look around the globe,” said Colin Clarke, a counterterrorism researcher at Rand Corp., a policy think tank. “They try to find a place where there is an ongoing insurgency, and they latch themselves onto that cause and exploit those local grievances.”

President Duterte has voiced concern that violence could spread from Marawi to other areas in the southern Philippines. Analysts say revenge or copycat attacks are likely to strike Manila or other Southeast Asian capitals.

In mid-2016, ISIS called on potential new recruits unable to join it in the Middle East to look to the Philippines. ISIS media agencies have promoted the Marawi conflict to their followers.

A Philippine soldier during clearing operations against Islamist militants in Marawi in September.
A Philippine soldier during clearing operations against Islamist militants in Marawi in September.

Behind the Battle

A brief history of the Marawi conflict and the Islamist groups that sparked it.

Isnilon Hapilon and his Abu Sayyaf Islamist militant group kidnap tourists, later beheading some.
Hapilon swears allegiance to Islamic State, which later endorses him as “emir” in Southeast Asia.
Fighters from a newly emerging Islamist group in Mindanao, led by Omar and Abdullah Maute, occupy a town, later bomb Davao City.
Maute fighters swear allegiance to Islamic State, raid Marawi jail.
Hapilon and his group begin joining Maute fighters.
Philippine military mobilizes against militants in Marawi, beginning long siege as Maute fighters dig in, using improvised explosives and snipers.
Maute fighters flying Islamic State flags occupy Marawi, burning buildings, taking hostages.
A misaimed airstrike kills 11 Philippine soldiers as troops push militants to city’s east.
The U.S. says it is providing special forces assistance to the Philippines.
Military takes back first of three key bridges, later retakes key buildings.
Military retakes remaining bridge. Earlier in the month, Philippine authorities say one Maute brother believed killed.
Philippine authorities say two remaining militant leaders killed; military declares battle nearly over.
Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte declares Marawi liberated.

Sources: Armed Forces of the Philippines, Philippine Government, Institute for Policy Analysis of Conflict

“It will be difficult to replicate a similar urban assault like Marawi in the short term,” said Francisco J. Lara, Philippines country manager of peace-building agency International Alert. “But the threat of a similar attack in the future remains real.”

Marawi is on Mindanao island, long known as a haven for extremists, from communist guerrillas to separatist Muslims. The U.S. for years has kept a small special forces contingent on the island.

The militants in Marawi, known as the Maute after the brothers who led them, Omar and Abdullah Maute, received funds from ISIS and modeled many of their tactics on the group, Philippine officials say. Their goal was to create a caliphate, or Islamic kingdom, with fighters from abroad including Indonesia, Saudi Arabia and Yemen, these officials say.

Marawi was once a relatively prosperous trading hub, surrounded by hills and a lake. It is predominantly Muslim, with the minarets and domes of mosques. There is a small Catholic minority.

The siege

The tale of the Marawi battle—told by the Philippine military and witnesses on the ground, including former hostages—shows how ISIS-inspired militants can quickly consume a city far from its base and supply lines in the Middle East.


  • Brothers based in and around Butig, a town near Marawi
  • From a wealthy elite family with Middle East connections. Omar studied in Egypt and Abdullah, in Jordan
  • In 2016, led a brief occupation of Butig and bombed a market in Davao City, southern Philippines
  • Swore allegiance to Islamic State in April 2016
  • Abdullah believed killed in August and Omar killed Oct. 16, Philippine authorities say


  • A faction leader of the extremist Abu Sayyaf Group, which allied with other pro-Islamic State groups including the Maute
  • U.S. State Department has $5 million bounty on his capture
  • Known for kidnappings, including of Americans in 2001
  • Stronghold in Basilan island, southwest Philippines
  • Swore allegiance to Islamic State in 2014
  • Islamic State in 2016 declared Hapilon its “emir,” or ruler, in Southeast Asia
  • Killed Oct. 16, Philippine authorities say

Sources: Armed Forces of the Philippines, Philippine Government, Institute for Policy Analysis of Conflict

It began May 23. Soldiers and police moved in on a house after receiving intelligence showing the Maute brothers and another militant leader, Isnilon Hapilon, were hiding there.

The military, which inadvertently interrupted a plan to occupy Marawi, found itself laying a siege that would last roughly five months.

Known for kidnapping and beheading foreigners from tourist resorts even before his ISIS affiliation, Mr. Hapilon is on the U.S. State Department’s most-wanted-terrorists list. In 2014, he swore allegiance to ISIS, which two years later endorsed him on its central media channel as its “emir,” or ruler, in Southeast Asia.

The Maute brothers were a lesser-understood threat. They were educated in Egypt and Jordan and from an elite local family, according to the Institute for Policy Analysis of Conflict, a terror-research group in Jakarta. In 2016, they briefly occupied a town about a two-hour drive from Marawi. Their group later attacked a Marawi prison, releasing some of their captured fighters, and bombed a night market in Davao City, President Duterte’s hometown.

Before government troops could get close on May 23, they came under fire from several buildings and retreated. Soon, hundreds of heavily armed fighters who had infiltrated Marawi began flooding the streets, planting the black ISIS flag in public areas and taking hostages, primarily Christians and the Muslims who sought to protect them.

The militants torched a cathedral and a school. Photographs by residents show Maute fighters in dark clothing and hats or balaclavas patrolling streets and mounting ISIS flags on vehicles. Civilians fled to surrounding towns and to government-run refugee camps. President Duterte declared martial law in Mindanao.

A hostage’s tale

Mr. Samiahan, who witnessed the hostage’s execution, had lived in Marawi for five years. His family of seven slipped out the back of their house after darkness and hid in the tall grass of an adjacent field as Maute fighters, yelling in triumph, set fire to the next-door Dansalan College, a Christian school.

The family spent the night huddled in the rain as Maute fighters shined flashlights across the grassy field. They were so close, Mr. Samiahan’s wife, Yolanda, said, “you could almost shake their hands.”

Ronnel Samiahan, 34, here with his son Greg, witnessed a beheading during his captivity by the Islamist militants.
Ronnel Samiahan, 34, here with his son Greg, witnessed a beheading during his captivity by the Islamist militants.

In following days, they hid in a hospital and other buildings before deciding no rescue was coming. Attempting to leave the militant-controlled part of the city, they were stopped at a Maute checkpoint. There, militants tested residents to see if they were Muslim or Christian: Only those who could reply to a Muslim greeting in Arabic were allowed to leave.

Mr. Samiahan, unlike most of his relatives, failed the test and was locked in a warehouse. On his second night, one captive tried to loosen his bonds while the Maute were sleeping. When fighters discovered the ruse, they performed the beheading and forced the remaining hostages to bury the head, Mr. Samiahan said.

It took the military several days to mobilize and push Maute fighters back from western portions of the city and liberate the city hall and hydroelectric dams that provide most of Marawi’s power. The Maute fought back fiercely, killing several troops.

By May 28, bodies of at least 16 civilians had been recovered, according to military officials, including those of eight men who were dumped in a ravine—the number had climbed to at least 47 late last week. Several were shot in the head with hands bound, accompanied by a sign in a local language reading “traitor,” according to local media reports.

The Agus river separated the battle zone, left, and the safe zone in Marawi.
The Agus river separated the battle zone, left, and the safe zone in Marawi.

The Agus River bisects Marawi, with the central business district and Marawi’s largest mosque and church in the Maute-controlled east. Maute fighters fortified three bridges, presenting a formidable obstacle to the military’s counteroffensive, and soldiers who tried crossing were met with sniper fire and rocket-propelled grenades.

The military, unused to urban warfare, called in airstrikes. Lacking guided munitions, the Philippine military divebombed the city with FA-50 jets and OV-10 Bronco propeller aircraft. On May 31, a badly aimed airstrike killed 11 soldiers. Government officials called it a tragic incident and launched a review.

In early June, the U.S. disclosed it was providing special forces assistance to Philippine troops but didn’t elaborate.

The constant aerial bombardment devastated Marawi’s center. Businessman Solaiman Mangorsi, 58, said he lost nearly $600,000 in damaged property after bombs struck areas that included a bookstore and other properties he owned. He said he wasn’t insured.

By mid-June, the battle had become a grind, with both sides digging in. Militants avoided airstrikes by boring holes in walls so they could move from house to house undetected.

Lt. Kim Adrian R. Martial of the Philippine Marine Corps led his platoon across this bridge in June before being forced to retreat.
Lt. Kim Adrian R. Martial of the Philippine Marine Corps led his platoon across this bridge in June before being forced to retreat.

A Christian hostage, Lordvin Acopio, a 29-year-old teacher, said militants forced him and other captives to make improvised explosives from firecrackers and shrapnel. They sent other hostages to search houses for guns, food and ammunition.

As the weeks passed, more hostages escaped. Mr. Samiahan, who witnessed the execution, broke free after discovering a padlock wasn’t properly closed. He made a mad dash for the military-held portion of the city, leaping over concrete barriers and plunging into the river and to safety.

Mr. Acopio escaped at night after a mosque he was held in was bombarded with tear gas. He and a priest scrambled through a hole blasted in the building, he said, and “just ran and ran and ran.”

Teacher Lordvin Acopio, 29, was held hostage by militants he says forced him to make improvised explosives.
Teacher Lordvin Acopio, 29, was held hostage by militants he says forced him to make improvised explosives.

By early September, the military had achieved several key victories, taking back landmarks including Marawi’s largest mosque. And it concluded, based on intercepted terrorist chatter, that Abdullah Maute had been killed in late August. By September’s end they had retaken the remaining bridges and pushed the militants into a few blocks bordering the lake.

The final battles were fought in close quarters. In one mission, Sgt. Roderick Peruandos of the Philippine Marine Corps, led a team to clear houses on the approach to what is known as the “White Mosque,” where senior militants including Mr. Hapilon were believed to be holding out. Moving room to room, they spotted a hole in the floor, when suddenly a homemade grenade was tossed out.

One corporal, who celebrated his 27th birthday with his squad just a few weeks earlier, was killed almost instantly, said Sgt. Peruandos. The grenade was made, he said, out of scrounged shrapnel and explosives from firecrackers and unexploded bombs dropped during airstrikes.

The other marines fled, leaving Sgt. Peruandos alone to fend off insurgents with rifle fire as he wrapped a tourniquet around his wounded leg. After an hour of bombardment, he crawled to safety, a bone in his leg snapped in two. The insurgents, though weakened, were left secure in their redoubt.

The government on Monday said Omar Maute and Mr. Hapilon had been killed, and the military said its offensive had boxed the remaining militant-controlled area to one or two hectares. The bodies of the two leaders were recovered and the remaining 30-odd fighters “were seen scampering in disarray,” the military said.

Displaced people from Marawi at an evacuation camp in Pantar district, southern Philippines. PHOTOS: LINUS GUARDIAN ESCANDOR II FOR THE WALL STREET JOURNAL(3)

If Marawi is declared militant-free, the Philippine government will then face painstaking work clearing improvised explosive devices and rebuilding the city. Tens of thousands of displaced people whose homes were destroyed remain in government-run camps.

Sgt. Peruandos, who has fought communist rebels and gangs in Mindanao for nearly all his 15-year military career, said he had never encountered an enemy like those who nearly killed him in Marawi. “It’s like they don’t care for their lives,” he said. “They just want to kill or be killed.”

After authorities declared the militant leaders dead, a pro-ISIS messenger channel said the group would train new recruits with combat knowledge learned from the battle, according to SITE Intelligence Group, which monitors jihadist activity online. The channel declared: “Marawi is just the beginning!”

A government soldier took up position in the battle area of Marawi in September.
A government soldier took up position in the battle area of Marawi in September.

Write to Jake Maxwell Watts at