Islamic State-loyal militant inside the city. (Photo: Chico Dimaro Usman, Rappler.com)
Militants loyal to the Islamic State infiltrated Marawi city, the provincial capital of Lanao del Sur in southern Philippines, to battle with Filipino troops inside the city. Several photos circulated appear to show the jihadists openly walking the streets in at least two neighborhoods of Marawi.
Local media reports indicated several jihadists moved into the city earlier today and began to take over buildings and vehicles, including City Hall, a medical center and the city jail. The Filipino Air Force reportedly “dropped several bombs” this afternoon in select Marawi neighborhoods to try and wrestle back control of the city.
The number of jihadists involved in the assault has not been confirmed, however, the Filipino military forces in the city said that there are at least 15 in the group. The actual number is likely higher based on locations where the clashes have been reported.
The battles began when the militants opened fire on the military contingent inside the city, according to a local resident. At least five members of the security forces have been wounded so far in the clashes, while one policeman was reportedly killed.
‘Amaq News, an official propaganda outlet for the Islamic State, has also confirmed the clashes. The statement from ‘Amaq was brief and offered no new details on the situation.
The situation remains ongoing and military reinforcements have been sent to the city.
According to a Filipino Army spokesman, the jihadists inside Marawi are led by Isnilon Hapilon, who was spotted in the city. While his presence cannot be independently verified by FDD’s Long War Journal, Hapilona is a US-designated global terrorist and the former leader of the Abu Sayyaf Group (ASG). In an April 2016 issue of the Islamic State’s weekly newsletter Al Naba, the jihadist group said that Hapilon (called Abu Abdullah al Filipini, one of his noms de guerre, in the newsletter) has been appointed as emir of all Islamic State-loyal forces in the Philippines. (See Threat Matrix report, Islamic State details activity in the Philippines.)
Local media has referred to the jihadists as the “Maute Group,” which is another name for the Islamic State in Lanao. The Islamic State in Lanao is just one such group in the Philippines to have defected to the Islamic State. This number includes at least a portion or all of ASG, the Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters (BIFF), Ansar Khilafah in the Philippines, Katibat Ansar al Sharia, Katibat Marakah al Ansar, Jund al Tawhid (a former ASG battalion), Jamaat al Tawhid wal Jihad (a group formerly loyal to al Qaeda), and parts of the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF).
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