The Philippino Front of the Islamic State
The president of the Philippines, Rodrigo Duterte, as well as Bashar Al-Assad, is now on the front line of confrontation with the international terrorism.
Rodrigo Duterte urgently interrupted his important official visit to Moscow last week and came back to his country. The fighting actions that happened in the south of the Philippines made the country get involved into the international front (but still not universal) of the fight against international terrorism. The fight of the central government against separatists and Islamic groups has never ended here.
However, it is a local, slow lasting war which does not differ from the others. Also, it includes Duterte’s personal vendetta toward local drug dealers that are being fiercely eradicated by the security forces.
The new front of the caliphate
The situation has radically changed now. The terroristic group “Islamic State” (banned in Russia) has challenged the Philippine statehood. The same situation happened in Iraq and Syria.
The insurgent group Maute (known as Dawlah Islamiya Philippines) fights from the side of ISIS in the region. It is composed of different international terroristic groups from the South-East Asia and Arabic countries.
The insurgents from the radical Islamic group Abu Sayyaf swore an oath of loyalty to ISIS. The Abu Sayyaf has been fighting against the central government and competing separatist movements since 1991 and it has been involved in kidnapping people so as to get a ransom and in trafficking drugs. And it is clear that President Duterte has become the “enemy number one” for the Abu Sayyaf.
It is obvious that the Philippines will become the hottest spot of the South-East Asia until the moment when ISIS will put together its forces to explode a region, for instance, it happened in Indonesia where terrorists conducted several severe attacks in Jakarta in January last year. There are dozens of radical Islamic groups in Indonesia now that swore an oath of loyalty to ISIS.
Fight for Marawi
President Rodrigo Duterte announced a military situation on the island Mindanao for 60 days on May 23. The government forces (commanded by Major General Eduardo Ano) were ordered to “clean” Muslim city Marawi (in the Lanao Southern Province, population- 200 thousand). According to the intelligence information, the leaders of the Maute and Abu Sayyaf located there. The number of insurgents in the city and its surrounding areas was about 500 thousand.
The US announced an award of 5 million dollars for the head of the Abu Sayyaf’s leader, Isnilon Hapilon. The military command confirms that Hapilon has met ISIS leaders from Malaysia and Indonesia so as to discuss perspectives for deploying the large scale front of the caliphate in the Philippine islands.
The confrontation of security officials and terrorists turned into street fights with heavy armor. Most of local people ran away to the near city Iligan that was blocked by the security force so as not to let the insurgents get into it.
The aircrafts and attack helicopters of the Philippine Air force joined them in attacking the city. More than hundred people were killed, 20 citizens were among them. The Philippine security force confirmed the death of 11 soldiers and four policemen.
The official spokesperson of the Philippine Military force, Brigade General Restituto Padilla confirms that no matter what information is presented in the media and social media, the military force is controlling almost the whole city Marawi except “some areas”. The military and police subdivisions are pushing insurgents away from local villages.
What is next?
The Philippines is a catholic country, only 5% of population is Muslim Sunnites. This group belongs to the nation Moro that mostly live in the South and South-West of Mindanao. The law dated to 1989 allowed to create an autonomy Muslim area that was included in the Philippines.
The separatists-Moro have been fighting against Manila since 1970. The Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF) and the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) and several military separatist groups separated from them are acting here. Also, the Abu Sayyaf separated from MNLF in 1991.
The Central government did not manage to reach piece with the Moro despite that fact that it tried several times. Although, their activity decreased a lot when the government signed with MILF a temporary peaceful agreement in 2011.
The Philippine government does not admit such groups as the Maute and Abu Sayyaf and fights to eradicate them. The small group Ansar al-Khilafah submitted to ISIS was totally destroyed and it does not exist anymore, according to the military officials.
President Duterte called the representatives of all military forces of “irreconcilable opposition” for fighting against ISIS in the Philippines islands and suggested creating a new national militia with the same financial support as a regular army has.
“You will serve as our soldiers do and will have the same salary and social welfare. We will build houses for your families in your home towns”, he promised.
Duterte clearly understands that despite victorious announcements it will be hard to defeat the Islamists without the Moro support, taking into account the areas of military actions (mountains and jungles) and that most of the Muslims support the Moro. The events happened in Marawi showed that the Maute and Abu Sayyaf felt very comfortable there. From the other side, there are no benefits for the leaders of the opposition to create a new caliphate on their territory.
If Duerte cannot agree with them, the country might face a hard, long-lasting war as ISIS will not have problems to find new fighters in this region.