Soldiers take positions while avoiding the fire as they try to clear Marawi City of militants on May 25. Survival became A daily battle in Marawi, the capital of Mindanao’s Lanao del Sur province and whose largely Muslim 200, 000 population make the city the biggest Islam community in what’s otherwise an overwhelmingly Catholic nation. Villarosa, a tutor in Marawi, was handing out wedding invitations once black clad fighters of what the locals call Grupo ISIS swarmed the streets. The battle for Marawi started on May 23, when the Philippine army tried to Capture Isnilon Hapilon, the mind of a southern militia which has pledged loyalty to ISIS leader Abu Bakr al Baghdadi.
As residents seek safety, much of Marawi became a ghost town. A Marawi survivor later told local journalist Jeff Canoy that these were his co-workers from a rice mill. As TIME toured the Capricorn hut, four men wearing masks hoisted in a different corpse from Marawi. When Marawi hostilities broke out, Duterte declared martial law for sixty days across Mindanao. On June 9, a U.S. Navy P3 Orion plane suspended in the cloudy skies over Marawi providing surveillance support to Philippine ground troops. Marawi is the latest front in what was a latest surge of apparently ISIS related attacks past the carnage in Iraq and Syria.
Wherein fighters speaking Filipino and Malay urged their compatriots to head to the Philippines, Calida had earlier said in Manila: What is happening in Mindanao is no longer a revolt of Filipino citizens-it’s transmogrified into invasion by foreign terrorists. Philippine officials say at least eight foreign fighters from Indonesia, Malaysia, Yemen, Saudi Arabia and Chechnya have been killed in the Marawi fighting. It is easy to jump from Marawi to Indonesia, Indonesia’s armed forces chief, General Gatot Nurmantyo, told reporters in Jakarta on June 13. Whilst The Marawi militants have targeted Christians, as elsewhere in the world, nearly all victims of the Islamist terrorism are Muslims who reject violence.
As uncertain as the future is for Abdullah and her family outside Marawi, it’s more confusing inside the city. Reports of another errant attacker who struck a small town 22 km from Marawi remain unconfirmed. Maute Group attacks on the smaller Lanao del Sur town of Butig last year seemed, in hindsight, a dress rehearsal for Marawi. The battle for Marawi has its roots in the complex and bloody story of Mindanao, where four decades of armed struggle have claimed more than 150, 000 lives.