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Islamists in the Philippines plotting another Marawi

South East Asia

Islamists in the Philippines plotting another Marawi

Government troops check a vehicle evacuating residents from their hometown of Marawi [Reuters]

The Islamist group which murdered Christians and destroyed churches when it seized Marawi CityMarawi city in May 2017 is preparing for another attack, according to Philippines’ army spokesmen.

Jihadists from the Maute group, which is linked to Islamic State, “are regrouping, retraining and recruiting for another attack”, an army major told journalists on 5 March 2018.

His comments were backed up by a statement from Philippines’ army chief, Lieutenant-General Rolando Bautista, who said, “There is still a possibility that they will occupy another city, that is a big possibility.”

In February, the Lieutenant-General warned that militants were planning to attempt to take two cities in the southern island of Mindanao, with help from foreign jihadists driven out of Iraq and Syria.

Marawi was only retaken after a five-month siege, during which Christians were singled out. Some were murdered, while others were abducted, forced to make bombs and used a human shields, while Christian women were kept as sex slaves.

Amnesty International later reported that nearly all the civilians murdered by Islamic militants during the siege of Marawi were Christians.

The Philippines is majority Christian. However, Islamist rebel groups on Mindanao have been engaged in a long-running struggle against the government. In 2014, the government agreed a peace deal with rebels which created a semi-independent Muslim region on Mindanao, but Christian villages continued to be targeted by militants, even before the capture of Marawi.