Muslim Hate in the Philippines


Koran, boots and scarves all that remain in Philippine rebel leader's lair

By Martin Petty

MARAWI CITY, Philippines (Reuters) - Prayer mats, chequered scarves, black fatigues, and bullet-ridden walls mark the hideout where the "emir" of Islamic State in Southeast Asia spent months preparing the most brazen and devastating militant attack in the region.

A four-storey house in a quiet alley of Marawi City in the southern Philippines was the secret lair of Isnilon Hapilon until late May. After a botched military raid to apprehend him, a thousand-strong rebel alliance held large parts of the city for five months.

Hapilon's death in a military operation elsewhere in Marawi on Oct. 16 was the catalyst for the end of Philippines' longest and most intense urban battle in recent history.

Security forces moved in on the house on May 23, trying to capture the country's most wanted man, but came under sustained attack from rebels firing rocket-propelled grenades.

A bomb-battered structure, shattered windows and wall-to-wall holes from machine gun fire tell the story of the ferociousthree-day battle that erupted at Hapilon's hideout, and promptedthe call to hundreds of fighters to expedite the plannedtakeover of Marawi.

Hapilon escaped through a large hole that was blasted out of a rear wall, making his way across a rice field to a mosque next to the vast Lake Lanao. From there, he joined the guerrillas.

Community volunteers on Thursday showed Reuters the house in the now empty, narrow street where the military believes Hapilon had lain low for several months. All other properties were intact and neighbours had fled long ago.

"At the time, no one knew who these people were. People saw them about but there was no reason to suspect anything," said Mohammed Seddick Raki, who lived nearby.

Other volunteers said women and children stayed at the rented house and visitors were frequent.

Children's shoes were scattered amid the debris and a woman's robe was hanging from a window.


Inside the house, black shirts, pants and plaid scarves synonymous with Islamic State were strewn across rooms littered with broken floor tiles and chunks of rock from blasted walls.

Left behind were waterproof boots, a balaclava, medical supplies and camouflage bags and waistcoats typically used by soldiers to carry rifle magazines.

Coated in a think layer of dust on floors of every room were pocket-sized copies of the Koran, some with pages stained by water leaked through gaping holes in the roof.

A mosque, about 100 metres behind the house, was the venue for an annual gathering in Marawi of Tablighi Jamaat, a Sunni missionary movement, just days before the fighting erupted.

Military officials say the foreigners who fought in Hapilon's alliance - among them Indonesians, Malaysians and some from Arab states - had used that event as a cover to slip into Marawi without raising suspicion.

The deputy task force commander in Marawi, Colonel Romeo Brawner, said Hapilon evaded security forces because rebels had a network of lookouts and gunmen ready to defend him.

"They put up heavy resistance. They were spread across a large area. They were strategically placed," he said. "They were prepared for it."

Hapilon's escape in the last week of May led to anarchy in the city of about 200,000. Rebels took hostages, set fire to buildings, ransacked churches, broke into the local jail to free inmates and looted an armoury.

The government had insufficient security forces in Marawi to prevent the fighters from fanning out across the city and seizing hundreds of buildings.

Hapilon was wanted by the U.S. Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) and had a bounty on his head of up to $5 million (£3.8 million). He was killed by army rangers in a night operation and his body was retrieved from the battle zone in the heart of the city. His identity was confirmed by the FBI's DNA analysis.

The city of Marawi was all but destroyed by government air strikes and shelling that levelled commercial areas and crushed thousands of shops, homes and vehicles.

"No one could have known what would happen," said Mohamed Faisal Mama, a resident in the same Basak Malutlot district where Hapilon was hiding.

"No one knew them. They weren't famous then."

Thousands flee Philippine city after rebel rampage claimed by Islamic State

May 24, 2017

Thousands of civilians fled fighting in the Philippines on Wednesday as troops tried to fend off Islamist militants who took over large parts of a city, capturing Christians, seizing and torching buildings and setting free scores of prisoners.

Islamic State claimed responsibility for the rampage via its Amaq news agency, and President Rodrigo Duterte defended his decision to declare martial law on Mindanao, the Muslim-majority island where Marawi City is located, to prevent the spread of extremism in the impoverished region.

The violence flared in Marawi on Tuesday afternoon after a botched raid by security forces on a hideout of the Maute, a militant group that has pledged allegiance to Islamic State.

Fighters quickly dispersed, torching buildings and taking over bridges, a hospital, two jails, a church and a college. Duterte said he heard reports they may have beheaded a police chief.

He said Islamic State must be repelled from the Christian-majority Philippines and he would use all means possible to crush the Maute group and the allied Abu Sayyaf, whatever the consequences.

"Anyone now holding a gun, confronting government with violence, my orders are spare no one, let us solve the problems of Mindanao once and for all," said Duterte, who is from the island, after cutting short a visit to Russia and returning to Manila.

"If I think you should die, you will die. If you fight us, you will die. If there's an open defiance, you will die, and if it means many people dying, so be it. That's how it is."

Soldiers and guerrillas set up rival checkpoints and roadblocks on routes in and around Marawi as civilians fled the city of 200,000 in droves, leaving behind what one official described as a ghost town.

Long queues of pickup trucks and jeeps crammed full of people and loaded with belongings crawled along roads into nearby towns as troops searched vehicles for weapons and bombs.

The military said it had rescued 120 people from a school and a hospital and was trying to isolate Maute fighters while awaiting reinforcements that were being blocked by rebels.

Maute snipers and booby traps were hampering operations, which the army said could last three more days.


The Catholic church said militants were using Christians and a priest as human shields and had contacted cardinals with threats to execute hostages unless government troops withdrew.

Thirteen militants and seven security personnel have so far been killed and 33 troops wounded, the army said.

Mujiv Hataman, governor of the Autonomous Region in Mindanao, said militants freed 107 prisoners, among them Maute rebels.

Duterte said martial law would mean checkpoints and arrests and searches without warrant, and it would go on for as long as necessary.

He said he would consider some security measures in the central Visayas region next to Mindanao to facilitate arrests, and could even declare martial law nationwide. He was furious that militants had hoisted the Islamic State flag in Marawi.

"I made a projection, not a prediction, that one of these days the hardest things to deal with would be the arrival of ISIS," Duterte said, referring to Islamic State.

"The government must put an end to this. I cannot gamble with ISIS because they are everywhere."

Duterte said he would not tolerate abuses of power by security forces under martial law, but critics said the military rule in all of Mindanao, an island the size of South Korea with a population of 22 million, was an overreaction.

The National Union of Peoples' Lawyers, a group of human rights attorneys, called it "a sledgehammer, knee-jerk reaction" that would "open the flood gates for unbridled human rights violations".

The military has not explained how the raid on an apartment hideout went so badly wrong. The operation was aimed at capturing Isnilon Hapilon, a leader of the Abu Sayyaf group notorious for piracy, banditry and for kidnapping and decapitating Westerners.

The Maute and Abu Sayyaf have proved fierce opponents for the military.

The armed forces said they were on top of the situation but residents who fled told a different story.

"The city is still under the control of the armed group. They are all over the main roads and two bridges leading to Marawi," student Rabani Mautum told Reuters in Pantar town, about 16 km (10 miles) away.

Bishops and cardinals urged Islamic leaders to persuade militants to free innocent hostages.

"We beg every Filipino to pray fervently," said Father Socrates Villegas, president of the Catholic Bishops Conference of the Philippines.

Duterte declares martial law in Philippine island of Mindanao in response to militant attacks

May 23, 2017
Los Angeles Times

Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte declared martial law on the southern island of Mindanao on Tuesday night after a city there was rocked by clashes between government forces and Islamist militants.

Presidential spokesman Ernesto Abella announced the declaration in Moscow, where Duterte arrived Tuesday for a five-day state visit. Martial law on the island — which is home to more than 20 million people — began at 10 p.m. and will last for 60 days, Abella said.

This marks the first time Duterte has declared martial law since he was elected in June 2016. He will cut his Russia trip short, postponing scheduled meetings with President Vladimir Putin and Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev, according to the Philippine Daily Inquirer.

Duterte declared a nationwide “state of lawlessness” in September 2016 after a suspected terror attack in Davao, the island’s biggest city, killed 14 people. The declaration granted the military special powers to aid in police operations, such as setting up checkpoints and patrols.

Martial law is much more consequential; it raises the specter of warrantless arrests and the suspension of the writ of habeas corpus, which grants detainees the right to challenge the legality of their detention.

Many Filipinos are particularly sensitive about martial law, as the late Philippine dictator Ferdinand Marcos used it to detain and torture opponents from 1973 until 1981.

On Tuesday afternoon, at least 15 members of the Maute group — Islamist militants believed to be inspired by Islamic State — stormed the city of Marawi, the capital city of the province of Lanao del Sur.

Residents posted photos of the ensuing clashes online. Many showed the Philippine military installing checkpoints; army tanks rolling through city streets; and massive fires raging at three local institutions, including the city jail. The number of casualties remains unclear.

Maute militants were seen riding through Marawi atop at least two vehicles and flying the black banner of Islamic State, the Philippine online magazine Rappler reported.

Duterte has made a brutal anti-drug campaign a centerpiece of his early tenure, enabling thousands of extrajudicial killings by police and vigilantes. Critics have accused him of exercising power without restraint.

In August, Duterte threatened to declare martial law if the Philippines’ judiciary blocked his drug campaign. "Please do not create a confrontation, a constitutional war. We will all lose,” he said.

Philippines blast: 3 sought in deadly bombing, Islamists suspected

By Tim Hume and Maria Ressa, CNN

September 4, 2016

(CNN)Police in the Philippines are looking for a man and two women they want to question in connection with the blast at a crowded market in Davao City that killed 14 people.

National Police Chief Ronald dela Rosa told CNN on Saturday the blast late Friday was caused by an improvised explosive device made of mortar rounds -- which pointed to extremist groups.

Escalating ISIS threat in Southeast Asia: Is the Philippines a weak link?

Dela Rosa told reporters in the southern Philippines city that authorities had eight witnesses, and a sketch of one suspect.

Sixty-eight people were injured at the crowded night market in President Rodrigo Duterte's hometown, Dela Rosa said. Fifteen of the injured were in critical condition, CNN Philippines reported, citing Southern Philippines Medical Center director Leopoldo Vega.

Davao City Vice Mayor Paolo Duterte -- the President's son -- said the city had received a bomb threat two days before the blast, CNN affiliate ABS-CBN reported.

Members of the UN Security Council called the attack "heinous" and "cowardly," and said "those responsible for these killings should be held accountable," according to a press statement issued on Sunday.

Islamists are suspected

On Saturday morning, during a visit to the blast site, Duterte told reporters that Islamist militants could be responsible.

"We are not new to this kind. It is always connected with the Abu Sayyaf or in Central Mindanao," he said, according to a statement from his office.

"But this is not the first time that Davao City has been sacrificed in the altar of violence."

He said he had warned the public that there could be blowback from intensified government military operations against the pro-ISIS Islamist group Abu Sayyaf in Sulu province, where 8,000 troops deployed in recent weeks.

"We have always been ready for this. I warned, I remember warning everybody that there could be a reprisal because of the pressure there in Sulu which is going on," Duterte said.

Abu Sayyaf is a violent extremist group that split from the established Philippines separatist movement Moro National Liberation Front in 1991. The group, which remains outside the country's sputtering peace process, has the stated aim of establishing an independent Islamic state on the southern island of Mindanao, on which Davao City is located.

The group first became active in the early 1990s and was responsible for bombings across the southern Philippines and in the Malaysian state of Sabah, and more recently has gained headlines for kidnapping and beheading Western hostages.

The Philippines is a predominantly Catholic country, with a large Muslim population in the south.

Abu Sayyaf: Islamist extremists or profiteering criminals?

'State of lawlessness'

Duterte has described the attack as an act of terrorism, and declared the nation in "a state of lawlessness," authorizing police and the military to search cars and frisk people at checkpoints.

The "state of lawlessness" is the mildest of the three executive powers the President can order, giving him the power to summon the military and work more closely with police, but falls short of being a declaration of martial law. The president can only impose martial law in case of invasion or rebellion, Duterte's spokesman said.

"It's not martial law but I am inviting now the Armed Forces of the Philippines, the military and the police to run the country in accordance with my specifications," he said, according to CNN Philippines.

Duterte, who visited a morgue early Saturday to pay respects to the dead, said people should submit to searches and frisking at checkpoints for the sake of public safety.

"We know that this is not a fascist state. I cannot control the movement of the citizens of the city and every Filipino has the right to enter and leave Davao. It is unfortunate we cannot stop and frisk anybody for just any reason," he said.

Police and military are on high alert across the country, and authorities have urged the public to be vigilant in case of further attacks.

Duterte's war on drugs

Duterte, the longtime mayor of Davao City, has faced domestic and international criticism since taking national office for his hardline stance on suspected drug offenders.

Rodrigo Duterte promised to fight drug dealers

The Philippine Daily Inquirer's "Kill List" -- regarded as one of the most accurate records of the killings of suspected drug dealers by police and vigilantes -- has recorded 832 deaths since Duterte assumed office June 30. Police say at least 239 drug suspects were killed in the three weeks after Duterte's inauguration.

Duterte's war on drugs leaves bodies in the street

'I am really scared'

Leonor Rala, a 19-year-old medical technology student at San Pedro College, told CNN Friday night that she was terrified after the blast struck near her dorm.

She said she initially thought something had fallen on the roof of a neighboring building. She went down to survey the scene of the blast, about 100 yards from her dorm. Emergency teams were already in place.

"I am really scared to go out," she said. "Some of my schoolmates are victims of the explosion and now dead."

She continued: "We're very terrified because Davao City was known to be the safest city in the Philippines and a situation like this is very rare."

Troops are killed, some beheaded, in southern Philippines

By Carlos H. Conde
International Herald Tribune
Wednesday, July 11, 2007

MANILA: At least 14 government troops were killed in some of the heaviest fighting with Muslim insurgents in the southern Philippines in recent months, officials said Wednesday.

Military officials said they had recovered the bodies of 14 marines after clashes with suspected Abu Sayyaf militants late Tuesday in Tipo-tipo, a hinterland town on Basilan island, and that at least 10 of them had been beheaded.

A marine spokesman, Lieutenant Colonel Ariel Caculitan, said in Manila that 50 marines had clashed with more than 300 rebels. "We were totally outnumbered," he said.

Major General Ben Mohammad Dolorfino suggested that the marines had been beheaded by Abu Sayyaf in retaliation for the slaying of the son of one of the group's leaders. "They got angry, that's why they decapitated the marines," Dolorfino said.

However, leaders of another group, the Moro Islamic Liberation Front, said it was its own fighters who had fought with the marines and killed 23 of them. But the front's spokesman, Abu Majid, denied the front's fighters had beheaded the marines. He said this was done by "unidentified groups" after the fighting, and that the front planned to investigate. He said four rebels had been killed and seven wounded.

Majid also said the violence could have been avoided had the government troops, who had entered the area in search of a kidnapped Roman Catholic priest from Italy, consulted with the front first. "We have all the mechanism in the cease-fire that allows coordination and to prevent this kind of unfortunate incident," he said.

The military said the marines had been patrolling Tipo-tipo to check out reports that the Reverend Giancarlo Bossi, who was kidnapped last month in Zamboanga Sibugay Province, also in the southern Philippines, had been taken to Basilan.

The Moro Islamic Liberation Front has been fighting for a separate Islamic state for Filipino Muslims in the south for three decades; a cease-fire is in effect, although there have been violations. The agreement requires both sides to coordinate their movements if one side ventures into an area where the other side is present. Majid said he did not understand why the marines did not notify the front of its operations in Tipo-tipo.

Mohaqher Iqbal, the head of the front's negotiating panel, said: "Our troops thought they were under attack. That's why they fought back. It should have not happened."

The Philippine government had said that some elements of the Moro Islamic Liberation Front were also working with Abu Sayyaf and Jemaah Islamiyah, two groups that have been blamed for some of the most horrific terrorist attacks in the country since 2001.

The front has denied any connection with Abu Sayyaf or Jemaah Islamiyah, but promised to purge its ranks of extremists.


Muslim Filipinos Vote as Violence Rages in Southern Philippines

By Nancy-Amelia Collins
Jakarta – Voice of America
11 August 2008

Over a million and a half Muslim Filipinos have voted in a regional election held amid escalating violence between the government and Muslim separatists in the southern Philippines. VOA correspondent Nancy-Amelia Collins in Jakarta reports.

Around 1.6 million Muslim Filipinos voted Monday for a governor, vice governor, and 24 members of a regional legislative assembly in the six-province Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao, known as the ARMM.

Local and international observers called the polls generally peaceful but marred by perennial problems such as tainted voter's lists.

Fighting between Muslim rebels and government troops in North Cotabato, which is not part of the ARMM, did not directly affect the elections.

Tensions remained high in the region as troops battled with hundreds of separatist Muslim fighters in North Cotabato forcing an estimated 130,000 people to flee their homes.

The fighting began Sunday after rebels from the Moro Islamic Liberation Front, or MILF, defied a government ultimatum to withdraw from several Christian villages in North Cotabato on the southern island of Mindanao.

Mohaqher Iqbal, the chief peace negotiator for the MILF, told VOA the violence was escalating.

"Fighting is still on going and it is worsening day by day because more troops coming from the government are enforcing their positions in various towns in the province," said Iqbal. "Our forces are defending themselves from this operation by the Philippine Forces."

The flare up of violence in the southern Philippines follows a decision last week by the country's Supreme Court to suspend a deal for an expanded Muslim homeland the group had agreed on with the government.

MILF chief negotiator Iqbal warned the peace process was in danger of collapsing.

"We are negotiating with the Philippine government as the sole representative of the government of the Republic of the Philippines. And then as to the internal squabbles to the three branches of government, the position of the MILF is that that is internal to the Philippine government, and if the Supreme Court rules negative, then as far as we are concerned, the peace process is practically dead," added Iqbal.

The ARMM, the country's poorest region, was created in 1989, as part of a deal to end the conflict with another large Muslim separatist group, the Moro National Liberation Front.

The MILF has been negotiating with Manila since 1997 to enlarge the Muslim homeland and grant it wider political, economic, and social powers.

But the Supreme court's decision last week to put on hold the expanded territorial deal, which, among other things, would allow the proposed Muslim homeland to retain 75 percent of all revenues from its natural resources, has created uncertainty.

The 12,000 strong MILF has been fighting with the government since the late 1960's in a conflict that has claimed the lives of more than 120,000 people.

The Philippines is predominately Roman Catholic, but around 5 percent of the population is Muslim and the majority of them live in the south.

Islamic separatists kill 28 in Philippines rampage

August 18, 2008

International Herald Tribune

Islamic separatists attacked several towns and villages Monday in the troubled southern Philippine region of Mindanao, killing at least 28 people in a rampage that, officials said, included hacking several people with machetes and spraying bullets into buses.

The attacks came as tens of thousands of villagers in other areas of Mindanao were returning to their homes following the fighting last week between government troops and the Muslim rebels.

News reports from Mindanao said several of the victims had been hacked with machetes. The rebels, according to officials, also burned down houses. The police said that the fatalities were mostly civilians, mainly farmers, while an undetermined number were soldiers.

Officials said more than 200 rebels attacked at least four towns in two provinces in Mindanao.

President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo called the attacks "sneaky and treacherous" and ordered the military and the police "to defend every inch of Philippine territory" against the Moro Islamic Liberation Front, the main Islamic separatist group operating in Mindanao.

"I will crush any attempt to disturb peace and development in Mindanao," the president said in a radio address.

The civilians were killed when the rebels withdrew, said Brigadier General Hilario Atendido, a military commander in the area. "They used them as human shields," Atendido said, speaking on the radio station DZBB. "The rebels killed them on their way out."

According to news reports, the rebels also took several residents as hostages. A bus driver told a radio station in Mindanao that the rebels, shouting "Kill them all!" fired on his bus. The driver did not say how many of his passengers were wounded or killed.

Mohamad Khalid Dimaporo, the governor of Lanao del Sur Province, said that the rebels were moving toward Christian-dominated towns in the coastal areas and that the military was directing its forces to protect those places.

"The military is doubling its forces," he told ABS-CBN television. "The highest priority now is to secure the coastal towns."

Eid Kabalu, a spokesman for the rebel front, said it was still checking reports that the attackers were rebels. He urged the public "not to jump to conclusions" as the front investigated the attacks.

But in case the rebels were front members, Kabalu urged them to stop the violence and to pull out of the province. He said the Moro Islamic Liberation Front did not issue any directive to carry out the attacks.

The violence this week, which began on Sunday in Lanao del Sur, where four soldiers and four military-supported militia members were killed, is certain to complicate the peace negotiations between the government and the front.

Two weeks ago, both sides had reached an agreement that they thought could end the fighting. But it was scuttled because of protests over the concessions that were to be given to the Muslim rebels. Government negotiators then said they were willing to abandon the peace agreement because of the backlash it caused in the Philippines. Analysts had said the breakdown of the talks could lead to more violence.

The new attacks, said the army chief, General Alexander Yano, were a "clear manifestation of the insincerity to the peace process of a significant portion" of the Moro Islamic Liberation Front. This, he added, "is a virtual declaration of war against the duly constituted authority."