A video has surfaced on social media apparently produced by the Islamic State’s Amaq News Agency depicting jihadists fighting in Marawi, southern Philippines, where foreign fighters are attempting to establish a caliphate.
Philippines President Rodrigo Duterte – who lives on Mindanao, the island Marawi is located on – has imposed a 60-day state of martial law on all of Mindanao in an attempt to quell the jihadist insurgency.
The short video shows jihadists darting around the bombed-out and severely damaged streets of Marawi. As The Long War Journal notes, the terrorists also appear to take control of armored vehicles and show the bodies of some of those killed. One jihadist can be heard saying, “Allahu akbar” to a colleague on camera.
The video surfaced online shortly before the U.S.-led coalition against the Islamic State in Syria confirmed the death of a terrorist known as Rayan Mashaal or Baraa Kadek, the founder of the Amaq News Agency:
This is the second video to surface from Marawi. Terrorists published another video this week showcasing Father Teresito “Chito” Suganob, whom they took hostage during the early part of the siege last week. Suganob and a dozen other civilians who were present in the city’s Cathedral of St. Mary remain hostages, and in the video, Suganob pleaded with President Duterte to ensure their safety by obeying the demands of the terrorists, particularly to end the airstrikes against terrorist targets.
In addition to taking hostages, images that have appeared on the encrypted messaging app Telegram appear to show jihadists forcing the Christians still trapped in the city to convert to Islam. Eyewitnesses who fled the city have told media outlets that terrorists were forcing civilians to recite Quranic verses and Islamic prayers and killing anyone who did not pass their tests. Many of these jihadists, the witnesses say, are extremely young–many teenagers and some as young as thirteen.
The men on camera appear to be Southeast Asian; the Philippine National Police and Armed Forces have confirmed that some of those fighting in Marawi are not Filipinos, however, but Saudis, Yemenis, Indonesians, and Malaysians. The presence of foreigners suggests that the Islamic State’s Mideast leadership is involved in the attempt to take over Marawi, not just local groups. The siege began last week as police attempted to raid the hideout of Isnilon Hapilon, the head of Abu Sayyaf, and the terrorists who initially attacked the city were members of the Maute group. Both these jihadist groups have pledged allegiance to Islamic State caliph, Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi.
Both Duterte and Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana have told reporters that the terrorists in Marawi are not indigenous to the Philippines but part of a foreign ISIS invasion. “They are already recognized and the occupation of Marawi is another step to prove worth as part of ISIS. They intended to raise the ISIS flag in the provincial capital,” Lorenzana told the Philippine website Rappler on Friday. He added that Isnilon Hapilon was “ordered to Lanao Sur (Butig) in early January to set up a wilayat (Islamic province) there.”
“ISIS thought that Lanao Sur was a better place for expansion because the area is bigger than Basilan and there are more Muslims there,” he added in his statements to Rappler. Marawi is the nation’s only “Islamic city;” the Philippines is over 90 percent Christian.
Duterte had previously stated that the Marawi crisis was “not Maute. It’s purely ISIS with different branches.” He added that jihadist groups have profited from soaring methamphetamine (shabu) sales in the Philippines, offering drug traffickers protection in exchange for money.
The government is denying, however, that a raid on a luxury resort in Manila is related to the Islamic State. Late Thursday night, gunmen stormed the Resorts World Manila, killing at least 36 and burning down a casino within the complex. National Capital Region Police Office (NCRPO) chief Oscar Albayalde blamed the incident on a “mentally disturbed,” “Caucasian-looking” lone gunmen, refuting a report from the SITE Intelligence Group that ISIS had claimed responsibility. Officials dismissed the ISIS claim as an attempt to generate momentum in the global jihadist movement.