Philippine Authorities Claim The PH Leader of IS Branch is Killed
On Monday, the head of Islamic State (IS) branch in the Philippines was killed by the Philippine military. The government of the Philippines showed pictures of Islon Hapilon’s body as a proof of his death after the militant group Abu Sayyaf’s five-month siege of the Muslim majority city of Marawi, Philippines since May.
According to the authorities, Omarkhayam Maute, the leader of another militant group, was killed along side Hapilon. The Maute Group was another Islamic extremist group close to Abu Sayyaf.
Recaptured in August, the city of Marawi was known to have a Muslim majority population within a Catholic majority country. According to the New York Times, there are at least 300,000 displaced people in September, who currently live in camps within surrounding areas. Still, small fractions of the city are controlled by Abu Sayyaf.
The group is known to be one of the most violently armed Muslim factions in the Philippines. The militants have conducted kidnappings and beheadings of residents and foreigners. In 2016, two Canadians were taken as hostages and later beheaded, after the group unsuccessfully demanded the Canadian government for ransom.
The F.B.I has listed Isnilon Hapilon on their most wanted list, and has offered $5 million for capture. The international coalition to eradicate the extremist group includes the US personnels and the Australian military. ABC News reported in August that the Australian intelligence was becoming increasingly alarmed of the power of Abu Sayyaf.
Hapilon declared loyalty to the Islamic State in 2014. Since then, the IS central command had urged every Muslim in the Southeast Asia to align under his leadership. However, several disputes within the factions of Abu Sayyaf have been reported. The group has been receiving aid from the IS central command, including financial support, as well as foreign fighters. It is unclear whether the death of its leader will end the influence of Islamic extremists in the region.
President Rodrigo Duterte of the Philippines, known to be a hardliner against Islamic extremists, showed an optimistic view and announced the liberation of Marawi after 148 days of military conflict. However, there still seems a continued presence of Abu Sayyaf in Marawi. General Eduardo Ano stated that military troops are still in combat with its militants.