The Philippines: The Maute Group Creates Instability in Marawi City

Philippine government forces have been combating Islamic militants in Marawi City, on the southern island of Mindanao since May 23. Mike Yeo from Defense News sums up the situation, explores the relevant actors and looks ahead at what this could mean for stability in the region.

What began as an operation conducted by police and military forces to capture Isnilon Hapilon, who is known as the “Emir of all Islamic State forces in the Philippines”, according to an official ISIS newsletter, has quickly turned into a crisis that would affect the state and security of the country. Although the operation was unsuccessful, this prompted nearly 500 militants to capture Marawi City and oust all forms of local government and police. While most fighters belong to the Maute Group, also known as the “Islamic State of Lanao”, they are also comprised of over 100 fighters from Abu Sayyaf, unofficially known as the “Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant-Philippines Province”, and foreign fighters. Abu Sayyaf has a longer history of activity in the region, but the Maute Group has quickly made a name for themselves following several high profile kidnappings, and the Davao City bombing in October of 2016.

Although the government forces greatly outnumber the Islamic militants, and martial law has been declared throughout the island by President Duterte, the government has yet to fully gain control of Marawi City, and the violence continues. While it is inevitable that the uprising will be quelled eventually, the problem that has yet to present itself is that of the reputation of the Maute Group seeks to build for itself. With a results proven record and an allegiance to ISIS, the Maute Group may soon find more funding and resources available to them following their actions in Marawi City. The situation has been compounded by the government forces having a significantly difficult time conducting urban combat, resulting in poor communication between military and police, and even friendly fire from an airstrike which killed 10 Philippine soldiers. Given the amount of damage and chaos the Islamic militants have been able to cause, the likelihood of a better resourced and highly funded Maute Group in the future appears to be certain while the security of the southern Philippines hangs in the balance. President Duterte has been staunchly against any kind of US assistance, but as the situation grows worse by the day, it may be an option he is forced to consider.


-Andrew Salafia, World Affairs Council Intern

Photo Credit: GMA Network