The case of jihadist militancy in Southern Philippines came to worldwide media attention when the battle between IS-linked militants and army troops for Marawi heightened, although the problem has been ongoing for decades. This paper presents an analysis of incidents linked to jihadist extremism between 2015-2017 in jihadist militant activity and identifies trends based on the type and geographical distribution. The results indicate that there has been an increase in activity as well as attempts by militant elements to expand into new territories.
On 23 May 2017 Philippine forces launched a raid in Marawi in the Southern Mindanao region after receiving information regarding the presence of Isnilon Hapilon, a leader of the Islamist militant group Aby Sayyaf and Maute Islamist group formations. A large number of heavily armed militants attacked Marawi and took over parts of the city. The black and white flag of the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS) was hung from buildings, a testamentto both Maute’s and Abu Sayyaf’s devotion to global jihad as they had both pledged allegiance to ISIS in the previous year.
In recent months, further indications of direct links between the militant factions of the Middle East and in Southern Philippines have emerged. In recent reports information was revealed regarding the transfer of funds from ISIS in Syria to Mindanao militants in the period leading up to the Marawi attack. Furthermore, during the ongoing battles in the Marawi area bodies of militants identified as Middle East nationals were found. In response to the sudden influx of militants in the city, the army was mobilized and initiated an immediate major operation to shore up the region and push back against the jihadist assault. This was followed by months of heavy clashes in Marawi as the armed forces were forced into a close quarters battle as they took control of the area building by building.
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