Militant groups linked to ISIS kill 19 civilians in the Philippines

A young resident in Marawi displays a white flag on the rooftop of a house A young resident in Marawi displays a white flag on the rooftop of a house Erik De Castro/Reuters

7 June 2017
The recent conflict between the Philippine army and local radical Islamic factions cause many deaths and at least 180,000 people to flee.  

On May 28, Philippine authorities confirmed that 19 civilians, including three women and one child, have been killed in the long-lasting clashes between the Philippine army and militant groups linked to ISIS in the southern Philippine city of Marawi, on Mindanao island. The death toll includes eight manual workers who appeared to have been executed while trying to escape from the conflict.

The violence erupted in mid-May, when Isnilon Hapilon, a 51 year-old veteran Filipino fighter, started a rebellion planting an ISIS black flag in Marawi, setting fire to a church and taking 15 hostages. Hapilon is considered to be the key person for ISIS in the Philippines and the leader of Abu Sayyaf, an extremist group based in Mindanao island that was previously linked to Al Qaeda. Security forces did not manage to calm the situation nor to arrest Hapilon, who is also on the FBI's most wanted list. Also, Maute, another extremist group linked to Islamic State, is joining the conflict in Marawi. According to Sidney Jones, the director of the Institute for Policy Analysis of Conflict, Mindanao's radical Islamist factions have formed a coalition with the aim of imposing Islamic law in the island.

In order to suppress the rebellion, the  President of the Philippines Rodrigo Duterte declared  martial law, ordering heavy bombings in the residential area. Over its first two weeks, the conflict has already killed at least 170 people, most of all soldiers. About 180,000 residents have fled Marawi, which used to have a population of around 200,000. Other civilians are still trapped in the conflict zone, as the rescue teams can't reach them,  displaying white clothes to distinguish themselves from fighters.


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