‘This isn’t Aleppo. This is Marawi City’ – urban war in Philippines


Aerial shot from a drone of Banggolo and Bubonga barangays in Marawi City taken on 8 June 2017 shows the destruction and fire from intense fighting between government troops and the Maute group and other rebels. Video: Val Cuenca/ABS-CBN

By Mong Palatino in Manila

On 23 May 2017, a group with alleged links to ISIS attacked some parts of Marawi City on the southern Philippine island of Mindanao. In response, the government declared martial law in Mindanao to pursue the attackers and prevent the spread of ISIS in other towns.

The clash between the military and the militant group known as Maute forced the mass evacuation of Marawi residents. As of June 7, more than 46,000 families, or 220,000 persons, have been displaced from their homes.

The government said it has provided 33 evacuation centers, but these could only shelter 18,000 people.

After three weeks of being a battle zone, hundreds of houses and other buildings in Marawi were destroyed. The extent of the damage has been revealed with rescuers, residents, and journalists uploading photos and videos of Marawi’s town proper.

The Maute group is blamed for the destruction, but the military is also being held accountable because of its continuous airstrikes. The military claimed it is conducting “surgical bombing” operations, but some residents said the air bombs are being dropped indiscriminately.

Marawi Mayor Majul Gandamra is saddened by the destruction in his city:

I weep for all the civilians who were mercilessly killed, I weep for the lost homes of my people and I weep for the loss of the true essence of Islam in the people who caused all these destructions to our lives and properties.

As of May 30, the government said 19 civilians had been killed by terrorists.

It is ordinary civilians who are enduring the greatest suffering as the crisis continues to drag on. And even if the clashes end soon, rehabilitating Marawi is expected to be a more difficult task because of the destruction caused by the fighting between the military and the militants.

Below are photos showing the situation in Marawi today:

“This is not Aleppo. This is Marawi City,” wrote TV reporter Greg Cahiles. Image: Greg Cahiles/Global Voices
Destroyed buildings in the town proper of Marawi City. Image: Maulana Mamutuk/Global Voices
Soldiers conducting a clearing operation in Marawi. Image: Najib Zacaria/Global Voices
A deserted street in what used to be a busy intersection in Marawi. Image: Maulana Mamutuk/Global Voices
A covered court converted into a temporary evacuation centre In Marawi City. Some residents are seen lining up to receive relief goods from the local government. Image: Marawi City local government

Mong Palatino is a Global Voices correspondent and is a two-term member of the Philippine House of Representatives. He has been blogging since 2004 at mongster’s nest.

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