This is not Syria. These are refugees in the Philippines fleeing ISIS.
The specter of concern regarding the spread of radical Islamic ideology into Southeast Asia has intensified with the siege of Marawi City which began on May 23, 2017. Islamic militants with loyalty to the Islamic State (ISIS) have been wreaking havoc in the southern Philippines for nearly a month. The clashes ensued when the Philippine government launched an offensive against Islamic militants in Marawi City — with particular interest in shutting down two Islamic groups — Abu Sayyaf, (Salafi jihadists) and the Maute group. Government officials were seeking to capture Isnilon Hapilon, leader of the Abu Sayyaf. Both Maute and Abu Sayyaf (ASG) have pledged allegiance to the Islamic State (ISIS).
Sunday, June 18, Philippine troops pounded Islamist militants holding parts of southern Marawi City with air strikes and artillery. More soldiers were deployed and the death toll rose to 329 — 225 militants, 59 Philippine soldiers and 26 civilians, as reported by the Philippine government. More than 300,000 civilians have fled and displaced.
HIDING CHRISTIANS IN THE BASEMENT: FEAR AMONG THE MINORITY.
Christian civilians who comprise a small minority of Marawi have reported they cowered in the basement for weeks while militants inspired by the Islamic State went door-to-door killing non-Muslims in the southern city of Marawi, as reported to the New York Times when they escaped.
Among 19 civilians killed after storming Marawi on May 23 were eight Christians shot for refusing to recite the Muslim creed, government investigators told local press.
They were the first Christians slain in the ongoing battle for Marawi City, capital of Lanao del Sur Province on the island of Mindanao, where a kidnapped priest appeared in a propaganda video on Tuesday (May 30) pleading for his life.
The Maute Group kidnapped the Rev. Teresito “Chito” Suganob, Catholic vicar-general of the prelature of Marawi, at St. Mary’s Cathedral along with 13 other parishioners.
As reported in “The New York Times” June 6, 2017:
“We heard the Islamic militants shouting Allahu Akbar and asking neighbors about religion,” said Ian Torres, 25. “We could only hear them. If they could not answer questions about Quran verses, gunfire immediately followed.”
There are approximately 20,000 Jews living in the Philippines. If ISIS intensifies the conflict and spreads their jihad into Manila, both Christians and Jews are at risk for attack. The region is on edge as the reality of ISIS infiltration sets in.
The Philippines is the only Christian nation in Asia with Islam contained to the southern islands.
A 2012 estimate by the National Commission on Muslim Filipinos (NCMF) stated that there were 10.7 million Muslims, or approximately 11 percent of the total population. Most Muslims live in parts of Mindanao, Palawan, and the Sulu Archipelago – an area known as Bangsamoro or the Moro region.
It has also been reported by Christians who were trapped in Marawi before fleeing:
It’s a genocidal nightmare unfolding and few in the west are paying attention to the latest attempt at Islamic Global Jihad Conquest.
ISIS LEADER IN THE PHILIPPINES – WHO IS ISNILON HAPILON?
Isnilon Hapilon, also known as Abu Abdullah al-Filipini, is a Filipino militant and a U.S.-designated terrorist and leader of the pro-ISIS group Abu Sayyaf Group.
The terror group ISIS has endorsed Hapilon as its emir (leader) in Southeast Asia and in June 2016 a video released by ISIS, alleged Indonesian, Malaysian and Filipino fighters in Syria training camp acknowledged Hapilon as leader. “ISIL recognizing Hapilon has put the the Philippines directly under its terror network…this is a game-changer,” say sources close to U.S. Intelligence.
In May 2017, Philippine intelligence received information that Hapilon was in Marawi City planning an attack, hence, the government seized the moment and entered Marawi City.
The Islamic State in Syria & Iraq, also known as ISIS, IS, ISIL, or Da’esch, its loose arabic acronym, is attempting to declare a wilayat or province in the southern Philippines. If so, it would be the first recognized satellite extension of the caliphate in Southeast Asia with Isnilon Hapilon as their leader
Early in 2001, as an al Qaeda operative, he Hapilon helped kinnap 20 terrorists from a Filipino resort.
MARAWI CITY UNDER SIEGE:
Malawi is the latest front in what has been a recent surge of apparently ISIS-linked attacks beyond the jihad conquest of Iraq and Syria. The greatest threat of crucial significance is the potential for ISIS and its affiliates to grow and spread in Southeast Asia, where many countries have sizable Muslim populations.
Islamic extremism is growing in the southern Philippines, with alarming implications for the rest of Asia.
For more than four decades, Islamist groups have been engaged in an insurgency for an independent province in the Mindanao island group of the southern Philippines. In April 2016, “World Watch Religious News” reported that ISIS was on the march and Abu Sayyaf would declare a satellite of the caliphate.
“Setbacks in Syria and Iraq have heightened the importance of other theaters for ISIS, and in Southeast Asia, the focus is the Philippines,” said Sidney Jones, director of the Institute for Policy Analysis of Conflict, based in Jakarta. “ISIS supporters around the region have been urged to join the jihad in the Philippines if they can’t get to Syria and to wage war at home if they can’t travel at all.”
Philippines intelligence sources have reported 400-500 fighters who overran Marawi City on the island of Mindanao included approximately 40 who have come from overseas, including countries from the Middle East.
The composition of jihadi militants fighting in Marwari appears to be local radicals with overseas insurgents. Philippines President Duterte emerged this weekend to stake some blame on the Muslim clerics stating they should have seen this coming. On the other hand, Duterte told reporters Sunday that the attack on Marawi had been ordered directly by the leader of ISIS, Abu Bakr al Baghdadi after weeks of asserting it was drug load motivated. In fact, Duterte, may not be far from wrong – terrorists, drugs and gangs make good bedfellows and the militants are likely funded by the Philippine drug trade.
About 1,000 civilians remain trapped in the war-torn city tonight, according to the city’s mayor.
Tonight, militant leader Isnilon Hapilon remains at large.
Christians, Jews, and innocent Muslims are less save in Southeast Asia than they were three weeks ago.
Global Jihad Conquest cannot be eradicated by guns and bombs alone. The perpetrators of the ideology are not limited to any one factor, but to an array of factors difficult to combat. There is no way to kill the ideology of Jihad. The civilized world can only suppress a 1,400 year old Global Jihad Conquest.
Lisa E. Benson
National Security/Foreign Policy Analyst & Commentator