Wednesday 29 January 2020

Everything you need to know about the siege in the Philippines

The militants say they have links to the Islamic State group.

By Prudence Wade

The Philippine city of Marawi has been under siege for three weeks now. Here’s everything you need to know about the ongoing situation.

Who’s besieging the city?


Muslim militants have laid siege to the city in the south of the country. They claim to have links to the Islamic State group.

This has raised fears that IS’s violent ideology is gaining a foothold in the area, where Muslim separatists have fought for greater autonomy for decades. The military says militants are trying to establish a caliphate here, similar to one IS has attempted to create in the Middle East.

The main group leading the siege are called the Maute. They staged a similar attack in November on a nearby city, but the intensity of this assault and their ability to hold out for so long appears to have caught the government off guard.

What sparked the siege?


A May 23 army raid failed to capture a top terror suspect, Isnilon Hapilon, who has been designated by IS as its leader in Southeast Asia. The raid pre-empted a plot by about 500 gunmen waving IS-style black flags to capture all of Marawi and kill as many Christians as they could, military officials say.


The military has been attacking the city with rockets and bombs as it tries to wipe out the militants. It makes up some of the fiercest urban combat this volatile region has seen in decades.

What has happened to the city’s civilians?


Three weeks after a new alliance of Islamic militants tried to seize this town, large chunks of the city centre have been reduced to ruins. Militants remain holed up in several pockets scattered around the city centre, along with at least 100 civilians, including hostages the army says are being used as human shields. There is no electricity, and most of the town’s 200,000 inhabitants have fled.

The city’s minority Christians have been singled out for execution.

Australian journalist Adam Harvey was hit by a bullet while covering the assault for ABC. He posted a picture on Twitter of his X-ray, but remarkably the bullet “missed everything important”.

The violence has killed 202 gunmen, 58 soldiers and policemen and 26 civilians, officials say. But the fighting is so intense, it’s impossible to fully recover bodies to get an accurate casualty toll.

What have other countries done?


US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson conveyed independence greetings on behalf of President Donald Trump and the American people on Monday, saying the US stands as an ally with the Philippines as it confronts the attacks in Marawi and other terrorist threats.

Indonesia has said it’s looking to set up joint patrols with the Philippines and Malaysia to prevent Islamic militants besieging Marawi from entering its territorial waters.

PA Media

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