Philippine military: City siege was start of extremist plan

Cheryl Sanders
May 30, 2017

Heavy fighting continued throughout the weekend in and around the city of Marawi, in the southern Philippines, as after the declaration of martial law, the Duterte government has dispatched the military to try to recapture the city, which has been more or less completely overrun by ISIS.

On Tuesday, a week after the fighting began, the government said it was close to retaking the city.

Marawi, because of its Muslim-majority population, is known as "Islamic City".

Speaking at an evacuation center outside Marawi, Saddat Liong said his house was hit by mortar fire and burned to the ground.

"We are still validating other reports of atrocities by militants", Padilla said.

Padilla said Sunday that combat operations were still going on, but that the militants were weakening.

The group of fighters however have turned out to be remarkably well-armed and resilient.

Attack helicopters were streaking low over Marawi on Monday, firing rockets at hideouts, as heavily armed soldiers went house to house.

In response the Maute swarmed the city, taking over a hospital and burning down buildings.

He said there are at least 3,717 stranded individuals in the city, while 59 persons have gone missing. Authorities were working to confirm that another top militant had been killed.

President Rodrigo Duterte on Sunday cancelled a trip to Japan to address the unrest in Mindanao, an island of 22 million people where martial law has been declared.

(Vatican Radio) Our Director of English Programming, Sean-Patrick Lovett, is just returned from the Philippines, where he was visiting on a lecture tour that took him first to the University of Manila and then to Davao, on the island of Mindanao - and smack into the middle of a war zone.

Rohan Gunaratna, a terrorism expert at Singapore's S. Rarajatnam School of International Studies, said the fighting in Marawi, along with smaller battles elsewhere in the southern Philippines, may be precursors to declaring a province, which would be "a huge success for the terrorists".

Soganub, wearing a black shirt and pants, said the militants had the right to practice their faith and enforce Islamic laws in the city.

Last week, twin suicide bombings in Jakarta, Indonesia, claimed by IS killed three policemen.

"They said they pulverised the whole camp, but these people simply transferred their base of operation from the jungle to the urban centre, to the city, Marawi", he told Reuters in an interview from Iligan City, 37 km (23 miles) from Marawi.

Marawi is regarded as the heartland of the Islamic faith on the southern Mindanao island.

The southern Philippines has been troubled by decadeslong Muslim separatist uprisings in the predominantly Catholic nation.

Mindanao is home to a number of Muslim insurgent groups seeking more autonomy. Amid continuing poverty and other social ills, restiveness among minority Muslims has continued.

Sixty-one militants, 20 members of the security forces and 19 civilians have been killed since Tuesday, when Maute rebels went on the rampage in Marawi after a botched attempt by the military to arrest Isnilon Hapilon, who the government believes is a point man for Islamic State in the Philippines.

Chaos was unleashed upon Marawi when troops searching for Hapilon were ambushed by heavily armed militants.

But Acmad Aliponto, a 56-year-old court sheriff who decided not to flee the city, said that while the militants were well-armed, he believes they have little local support, and that the recent violence could turn more people against them.

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