While the world looked on in horror at the carnage and havoc wreaked by a suicide bomber at a concert in Manchester, U.K. that may or may not have been directed by the Islamic State group, militants affiliated with the jihadist organization launched an all-out assault on a city halfway around the globe.
According to the U.K. Independent, a group of heavily armed, black-clad Islamists who have sworn allegiance to the Islamic State group launched a bold mid-day raid into Marawi City on the island of Mindanao in the Philippines, opening fire on government troops and civilians alike, setting buildings on fire and even reportedly raising their trademark black flag of jihad above a hospital they had captured.
The Islamist militant group is known as Maute — formerly known as the Moro Islamic Liberation Front — but also refers to itself as the Islamic State of Lanao, and they have sworn allegiance to and received support from the Islamic State group in Iraq and Syria.
“I’m appealing to residents of Marawi City to stay home, drop on the ground if they hear gunshots. They have to lock their doors and gates too,” said Mamintal Adiong Jr., vice governor of Lanao del Sur, in a phone interview with The Philippines Star.
The attack reportedly began around 3:00 p.m. when soldiers sent to check out reports of men brandishing weapons in the street were fired upon by the militants, leading to sporadic gunfire and random firefights erupting all around the city throughout the rest of the day.
“There (were) no indications that an attack like this will happen. There are no checkpoints in the city,” a resident of the city told The Star via text. “Everything is in silence. No news about the city government. Everything is vague.”
Reuters reported that Philippines President Rodrigo Duterte has declared martial law on the island of Mindanao, even as he is out of the country on an official visit to Russia at the moment. That visit will be cut short so Duterte can return home to oversee the response to the assault.
“(Duterte) has already declared martial law for the entire island of Mindanao,” presidential spokesman Ernesto Abella said in Moscow.
“This is on the grounds of resistance and rebellion based on what is happening,” he added, noting that, as per their constitution, the martial law would last for 60 days.
The defense secretary, also in Russia, told the media that at least three members of Philippine security forces had been killed in the fighting thus far, with another 12 wounded. He further noted that 500 troops were on their way to reinforce the besieged city but were facing delays due to roadblocks set up by the rebels.
Meanwhile, the jihadists have scattered about the city and begun taking opportunistic shots at the troops whenever possible.
“Based on our assessment right now there are more or less 100 divided into groups of 10 in different locations,” explained Brig. Gen. Rolando Bautista, commander of the First Infantry Division, to local media. “Since they are advocating ISIS ideology they have to show ISIS that they are a force to be reckoned with.”
Hopefully the Philippine military will quickly regain control of the city and restore order, though previous clashes with the terrorist group have led to several days of fighting before success was achieved.