Islamist insurgency in the Philippines: guerrillas, hostages, vandalized church

Marawi, a predominantly Muslim city in the Philippines, is currently the scene of violent clashes between Islamist insurgents and government forces.

Lhe story goes back to January. Isnilon-Hapilon, leader of Abu Sayyaf, who wants to get closer to the jihadist group Maute, is in Marawi. He presents himself as the Emir of the Filipinos affiliated with the Islamic State. Islamists are reportedly considering establishing a new caliphate in Southeast Asia, funded by the Islamic State. In trying to capture the leader, the defense minister admits that he did not expect to see hundreds of jihadists, from Chechnya, Saudi Arabia, Yemen, and funded to the tune of $ 2 million by the Islamic State group. From then on, a guerrilla movement took hold. The fight will be long.

“The advantage (of the enemy) is their mastery of the terrain. They know where the smaller aisles lead and are free to move around. They know where government forces are coming from and where they are sheltering. They have snipers and their positions are well defended. Said Major Rowan Rimas, a Marine officer.

The Minister lorenzana underlines the determination of the combatants:

“Normally, in this type of conflict, the fighters run away and hide in the mountains. Surprisingly, they are entrenched there and wait to fight, perhaps until the last. "

Islamist militants control 10% of Marawi. They hide in tunnels and caves that resist military strikes. Mosques, which government forces are prohibited from attacking, also have tunnels.

About 2000 civilians were taken hostage. Among them, the priest Teresito Suganob dit Chito and 15 faithful. Deprived of food for several days, they serve as human shields for Islamist fighters, surrounded by government forces. The Sainte-Marie Cathedral and a Protestant educational institution, the Dansalan College, have been set on fire.

"We are in a delicate phase, indicates Bishop Edwin de la Pena, Bishop of Marawi, We are deeply concerned about the life of the hostages since we do not know what their fate might be. Now contacts are underway and the activists are threatening to behead Father Teresito Suganob. Hostages represent their guarantee of survival. We hope that the militants, with their backs to the wall, will decide to release them unharmed. "

President Rodrigo Duterte imposed martial law across the country and calls on its soldiers to crush enemies.

“I order you to crush your enemy. When I tell you to crush, you have to destroy everything, including lives. "

More than 40 people were evacuated to centers. As many would have taken refuge in families. Now is the timehumanitarian emergency. Civil associations and Catholic communities are mobilizing.


Image credit: Flickr / CC - Bernardo Arellano III

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