The Philippine military has confirmed eyewitness reports that Islamic State jihadists, attempting to establish a caliphate in southern Marawi city, have taken civilians hostage and forced them to fight and loot for them, and have forced female hostages into sex slavery.
This behavior is consistent with what Islamic State terrorists have done to civilian populations in Syria, Iraq, and North Africa. In Iraq and Syria in particular, Islamic State terrorists have organized auctions to sell Yazidi girls and women as slaves and built children’s terror training camps for boys abducted from their families or brought to ISIS by jihadi couples.
“The hostages were tasked to loot houses, establishments [for] ammunition, firearms, cash, [and] gold” in Marawi, the Philippines’ only official “Islamic city,” according to Joint Task Force Marawi spokesperson Lt. Col. Jo-ar Herrera. “Worst thing [is] there are cases of female hostages forced to marry the Maute local terrorist group. They are being forced to [be a] sex slave, forced to destroy the dignity of these women.”
Herrera added that those tasked with looting were forced to work on a schedule to prevent their injury during ongoing fighting, and some were also forced to take wounded jihadists to mosques, which the Philippine military has vowed not to attack out of respect for the local population. Herrera referred to the terrorists as “evil.”
The Maute group is an indigenous jihadist terror organization in the Philippines that has pledged allegiance to Islamic State “caliph” Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi. Maute and another Islamic State-affiliated group, Abu Sayyaf, overran Marawi in late May in an attempt to establish an Islamic State in the Philippines, an overwhelmingly Catholic-populated country.
The new information on civilian abuses, according to Philippine news outlet ABS-CBN, comes from seven hostages recently rescued from the city, who “shared harrowing stories of their captivity, which included rape and being forced to loot from abandoned houses in the war zone.”
The UK Telegraph cited another source, city official Hussein Datuharun, as confirming these eyewitness statements, particularly the fact that civilians who were unable to flee are being forced to fight against their own military.
“They [militants] put checkpoints all over the city and then they recruit only men, saying you join our group or we will kill you,” he told the newspaper, “That’s why the fight is still continuing. Many people who are not willing to join but are forced by the armed groups.”
The rampant human rights abuses committed against the people of Marawi are all the more notable because of the fact that reports suggest most of the Maute terrorists fighting in the city are extremely young men and boys recruited into the terrorist group through deceit.
Witnesses say many are teenagers, and in an interview granted anonymously to the Philippine website Rappler, a former Maute terrorist explained that his family allowed the Maute terrorists to take him away as a child because they promised an Islamic education for him that they could not afford. Islamic State propaganda videos out of Marawi also showcase terrorists who appear to be in their teens or 20s.
The raid of Marawi began in late May, when Maute terrorists attacked soldiers conducting a raid on the suspected hideout of Isnilon Hapilon, the head of Abu Sayyaf. Following that incident, President Rodrigo Duterte announced a 60-day martial law period on the entire island of Mindanao, where he also lives, and the military campaign to eradicate ISIS terrorists from the city has continued since.
The Philippine military claimed Monday that the fight is nearly over. “Victory is irreversible. It is just a matter of time before we will be able to complete our mission,” AFP [Armed Forces of the Philippines] public affairs office chief Col. Edgard Arevalo told reporters, according to the Philippine Star.
Government sources noted in particular reports that Maute terrorists were divided on whether they should surrender or die fighting, which has caused strife among the fighters, and Maute terrorists appear dishearted at reports that Hapilon himself may have fled Marawi.
Another sign of the terrorists feeling less comfortable in their victory is a report that Maute terrorists reached out to the AFP to make a deal, offering to trade the freedom of Father Teresito “Chito” Suganob, who was abducted during the beginning of the raid in May, for the parents of the Maute brothers who lead the gang, Cayamora and Farhana Maute.
Reuters reports that government officials met with Maute negotiators during Eid, the holiday marking the end of Ramadan, over the weekend and rejected the offer. Through this meeting, however, they confirmed that Suganob was alive and healthy.