Sunday, June 4, 2017

"Islamic State" in the Philippines? Detailed Control Map & Timeline of the Marawi Conflict

Map of so-called Islamic State (ISIS/ISIL) control in the Philippines, during the May-June 2017 crisis involving the Maute group and Abu Sayyaf takeover of Marawi Ciy, Lanao del Sur province, Mindanao. Updated to June 4, 2017, shows detailed control of Marawi by barangay. Includes map of area affected by martial law declared by President Rodrigo Duterte. Colorblind accessible.
Map by Evan Centanni. All rights reserved.
Article by Evan Centanni

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Rebellion in the Southern Philippines

For the past week and a half, headlines have chronicled an alleged new front in the war against the so-called "Islamic State" (IS; formerly ISIS/ISIL). A recently-formed armed organization known as the Maute group (after the family name of the two brothers who lead it) has launched a rebellion in Marawi, capital of Lanao del Sur province of the southern Philippines, apparently allying with elements of the older Abu Sayyaf organization to spread the vision of IS into southeast Asia. Marawi is a historic center for Muslim culture in the Philippines, and the largest city in the country's partially self-governed Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (ARMM).

Map of territory in the Philippines and Malaysia claimed by the separatist Bangsamoro Republik, plus territorial control by the Moro National Liberation Front (MNFL) as part of the 2013 Zamboanga crisis.
The southern Philippines has a long tradition of rebellions led by members of the minority Moro ethnic group, whose main difference from the rest of Filipinos is that they're Muslims rather than Christians. But different armed groups vary widely in their goals. Some, like the MNLF group that declared an independent "Bangsamoro Republik" in 2013, just want increased self-governance for the Moro people, without necessarily involving religion in government.

Others, like the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) - currently waiting for the Philippine government to approve a 2014 peace deal that would convert the ARMM into a more self-governed "Bangsamoro" region - are more religiously-oriented, but still support democracy.

Abu Sayyaf and the Maute group, on the other hand, are religious hardliners, who believe in the far-right ideologies of violent Salafi Muslim groups like Al Qaeda and IS. According to media in the Philippines, the Maute brothers call their organization "Dawlah Islamiyah" (Arabic for "Islamic State"), and have pledged allegiance to the leadership of the Islamic State organization in Iraq and Syria. Meanwhile, they appear to have been working closely with Isnilon Hapilon, a leader of Abu Sayyaf who IS claims as its top representative in the Philippines.

Martial Law in Mindanao

On the first day of the violence in Marawi, citing the attacks and alleged attempts at rebellion against the government of the Philippines, President Rodrigo Duterte declared martial law across the entire Mindanao island group (roughly the southern third of the country). The declaration allows for indefinite detention of suspects without trial, and will last for 60 days unless revoked or extended by the national legislature.

Flag of the Philippines Country Name:  
• Philippines (English)
• Pilipinas (Filipino)
Official Name:  
• Republic of the Philippines (English)
• Republika ng Pilipinas (Filipino)
Capital: Manila
Former president Ferdinand Marcos controversially used martial law to maintain dictatorial powers across the Philippines for 8 years starting in 1972. However, the country's current constitution, in addition to the time limits, also doesn't allow for the courts or legislature to be overridden under martial law. This limited type of martial law declaration was also used by President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo for one week in 2009.

President Duterte himself grew up in the Mindanao region from a young age, and before his election as president served as longtime mayor of Davao, the largest city in Mindanao and second largest in the country after greater Manila. Some of Duterte's ancestors were reportedly Muslims from the Marawi area.

Timeline of Maute Control

The following is a timeline of territorial control and other events related to the Marawi conflict. Sources are provided as in-line links. The accuracy and truthfulness of officially-available information has been called into question regarding these events, but PolGeoNow has done our best to consult a wide range of sources and provide as accurate a story as possible.

Note: The entire Philippines is divided into neighborhood/village-level administrative units known as "barangays". Referencing these units is a useful way of tracking events on a very local scale, but because they're very small, can change frequently, and aren't well documented online, there's often confusion over the exact locations and correct names of specific barangays. Because of this, references to barangays in the media and our timeline - as well as their status and locations on the above map - won't always be 100% accurate.

November 24 - December 1, 2016
The Maute group seized control of the town of Butig, 50 km (30 mi) south of Marawi, until being driven out by the Philippine military after six days of fighting. The military estimated there were 61 Maute fighters killed in the episode and 12 injured, while 35 Philippine soldiers also sustained injuries.


May 23, 2017
Marawi City: Around 2pm at "the lower portion of the Mindanao State University Compound" in Barangay Basak Malutlut, clashes broke out between the Philippine military and fighters of the Maute group. The military had been attempting to arrest Isnilon Hapilon, a leader of the Abu Sayyaf armed group and reputed top representative of the so-called "Islamic State" (IS) in the Philippines.

By about 3pm, fighting broke out in the Caloocan neighborhood, near the Lanao del Sur provincial police command. According to early reports, during the afternoon Maute-affiliated fighters took over "Barangays Saber, Sarimanok, Mapandi, Amai Pakpak, the area near the provincial jail, [Basak] Malutlut, and Calookan [Caloocan]". Later reports said the fighters had seized 11 barangays: Basak Malutlut, Bangon, Saber, Tuca, Bangolo, Naga, Moncado Colony, Caloocan, Marinaut, Mapandi, and Matampay.

A humanitarian organization reported that fighters raised a black flag, of the design used by the so-called "Islamic State" (IS; formerly ISIS/ISIL) and some Al Qaeda affiliates, at the Amai Pakpak Hospital. The hospital administration later denied that the facility had been taken over, while confirming it had been the site of a scuffle between Maute fighters and police.

Marawi City Jail, City Hall, the city's main street, and two bridges were also reportedly occupied by the attackers, while St. Mary's Cathedral was seized and its priest and 14 church workers taken hostage. Meanwhile, the city jail, a church, Ninoy Aquino School, and Dansalan College were set on fire. The fighters reportedly released 107 inmates from the city jail and neighboring Malabang District Jail. [Editor's note: PolGeoNow was unable to confirm a map location for the Marawi City and Malabang District Jails, which appear to be different from the provincial jail.]

Residents said many of the fighters could not speak the local Maranao language, instead conversing in tongues native to the Sulu Islands, where Abu Sayyaf is known to operate. In addition, intelligence sources later estimated that up to 10 percent of pro-Maute combatants in Marawi were foreign fighters, mostly from Malaysia, Indonesia, and Singapore, but also including "at least one Pakistani, a Saudi, a Chechen, a Yemeni, an Indian, a Moroccan and one man with a Turkish passport."

Thousands of Marawi residents fled the city to escape the violence, as ground troops in armored personnel carriers attempted to contain the Maute fighters, and airstrikes were conducted at the shore of Lake Lanao. Police reportedly closed down all entry and exit points to Iligan City, 40 km (25 mi)  to the north.

At 10pm, Philippine Presdient Rodrigo Duterte declared martial law in the Mindano island group, cutting short a visit to Russia so he could return to the Philippines.

May 24, 2017
Fighting reportedly reached a pause, as the military held its ground while awaiting reinforcements. A humanitarian spokesperson from the regional government said the conflict-affected neighborhoods were "Barangays Basak Malutlut, Caloocan, Abubakar, and Bangolo". [Editor's note: There does not appear to be any barangay called "Abubakar" in Marawi.]

Marawi's police chief and another police official were killed in confrontations, while government agencies bused fleeing civilians to three new evacuation centers in Iligan City, and the Maute group threatened to behead the priest of St. Mary's Cathedral if the military didn't pull out of the city. The military reported that 13 Maute fighters and 5 Philippine soldiers had been killed since the beginning of the incident. The city of 200,000 was reportedly "like a ghost town" after tens of thousands of residents fled for safety, though 800 were sheltering within Marawi at the Lanao del Sur provincial capitol building.

May 25, 2017
Army tanks and assault helicopters entered Marawi, while residents said the Maute fighters looted and burned civilian homes. A military spokesperson said that Amai Pakpak Hospital, Marawi City Hall, and Mindanao State University had been cleared of Maute fighters.

The same day, fighting was reported from Barangays Malimono, Gadungan, Bangolo, and Marinaut. The military said the heaviest fighting occurred around two bridges in Barangay Bangolo, while elsewhere in the city Maute fighters attacked the Camp Ranao army base and occupied the LASURECO electric company headquarters. Airstrikes were conducted in Barangays Gadungan, Basak Malutlut, and Bangon. 

May 26, 2017
The military announced that the death toll in the Marawi conflict had increased to 31 Maute fighters and 11 Philippine soldiers, in addition to the two police officers killed on the 24th.

May 29, 2017
The government said it was "in full control of Barangays Matampay, Basak Malulut, Barrio Green, Bangon and Saduc, the peripheries of the Mindanao State University campus and the Amai Pakpak Hospital and the Matampay area." Major fighting occurred in Marinaut and around the LASURECO compound. The military apparently prevailed at the latter location, rescuing several hostages, and also evacuated a number of civilians from Barangay Saber.

May 30, 2017
A week after the conflict began, the military said Maute group fighters were "still present" in nine barangays. Progress in retaking the rest of the city had been slowed by Maute snipers targeting soldiers from buildings under their control. Media quoted the death toll of the Marawi conflict at 20 "members of the security forces", 61-64 Maute fighters, and 19-24 civilians, while the Red Cross estimated that 3,000 residents were still trapped in their homes. Meanwhile, the military admitted that Maute fighters had captured an armored personnel carrier - a type of tank.

A regional news report - dated June 2 but apparently referring to the situation as of May 30-31 - listed Mindanao State University, Matampay, Saber, and Basak Malutlut as "areas declared clear" by the military. Areas not yet "cleared" included "Banggolo, Raya Madaya I and II; Lilod Madaya, Dagodoban, Padian, Barrio Naga, Marinaut West and East; Caloocan, Pangarungan, and Moncado Colony". [Editor's note: "Pangarungan" seems to refer to the same area also known as Barangay Moncado Colony.] Barangays Banggolo, Raya Madaya I and II, and Marinaut were also reportedly inaccessible due to airstrike damage. Over 3,000 residents were estimated to still be trapped in their homes, even after the rescue of more than 2,300, who were brought to the provincial capitol.

May 31, 2017
According to eyewitness media accounts, the Mapandi and Bayabao bridges were still under Maute control after one week, with the group inferred to control much of the town center as well. Military accounts said Maute fighters controlled only 10% of the city, with 89 members of the group killed since the start of the conflict. One military source said the fighers were confined to just four barangays: Bangolo, Lilod Madaya, Raya Madaya I, and Raya Madaya II.

Hapilon and the two Maute brothers were believed to still be in Marawi. The Marawi City Jail and Malabang District jail were reported to still be under Maute control as well, with their staff trapped inside. The military's fatality count for the conflict rose to 120 Maute fighters and 36 soldiers, including 10 killed accidentally by a government airstrike. The official count of civilian deaths remained at 19.

June 2, 2017
Ongoing military efforts were reportedly focused on Bangolo in Marawi's downtown. Meanwhile, military forces reportedly eliminated a Maute sniper position in Mapandi, while airstrikes continued in the area. Delays in securing control of the city were attributed to Maute snipers and use of civilians as a human shields. A military spokesperson admitted that the government would not achieve its goal of gaining complete control over Marawi by June 2.

Meanwhile, IS claimed credit for an alleged attack on a casino in the Philippine capital city of Manila, which the Philippine government insisted was actually a robbery attempt by a lone gambler - an interpretation apparently supported by video of the events. The attacker fired a weapon multiple times, but reportedly didn't shoot anyone (except eventually himself); however, 37 people died as an apparent result of fires he started.

June 3, 2017
Though military efforts were reportedly still focused on Barangay Bangolo, civilians were also said to still be trapped in the nearby Raya Madaya neighborhood. The Philippine government said it believed the fighters had prepared in advance for their takeover attempt, and may have received assistance from IS in the Middle East. Meanwhile, the military raised the official death toll to 120 Maute members, 38 government personnel, and 20 civilians, after a resident was allegedly shot by a Maute sniper while being evacuated. The government also raised its estimate of the total remaining Maute fighters to "200 to 250" in addition to the 120 already killed, after having estimated a total of just 100 the previous week.

June 4, 2017
A four-hour humanitarian ceasefire, arranged directly with one of the Maute brothers by the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) rebel group, allowed 134 non-combatants to be evacuated from the heart of the fighting in Barangay Bangolo. The MILF, Mindanao's most powerful rebel group, which is awaiting the completion of a peace deal with the government, has opposed the Maute takeover but not directed its forces to get involved militarily.

Meanwhile, President Duterte announced he had accepted an offer by Nur Misuari, leader of the MNLF rebel faction that took over another city in Mindanao in 2013, to send 2,000 fighters to help the government against the Maute group. The president publicly invited the communist New People's Army (NPA), the country's oldest active rebel group, to do the same.

Related: Map of 2013 MNLF Rebel Control in the Philippines' Zamboanga City

Also on June 4, a humanitarian agency said over 220,000 people had fled the violence, of whom about 58,000 were staying in evacuation centers and 163,000 were living at the homes of family members. Meanwhile, a news agency released photos of the destruction caused by government airstrikes in downtown Marawi.

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Graphic of the flag of the Philippines is in the public domain (source).