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Battle For Marawi. Civilians suffer while army battles ISIS militants in Philippines

On May 23, 2017 two militant groups, Maute and Abu Sayaf, took the city of Marawi. Aby Sayyaf has been terrorizing the Philippines for 20 years. It was joined by another local group, founded by the Maute brothers, in 2012. They are both determined to fight for an independent Islamic state in the Philippines. The attack by Maute and its allies on the island of Mindanao is the biggest warning yet that ISIS (also known as Islamic State) is building a base in Southeast Asia. +

The Philippines government has introduced martial law in Mindanao province. Officials were convinced they would recapture the city within weeks. But the counter-terror operation against ISIS fighters has now been on-going for three months. In an effort to oust the terrorists from the city, the Army deployed 3,000 troops. So far, 122 soldiers and 528 militants have been killed, according to the Philippine Army.

An RTD Documentary team spent a week in the city and witnessed scenes similar to the sieges of Aleppo in Syria and Iraq’s Mosul, eventualities until now unknown in Southeast Asia. All roads to Marawi are closed. Heavily armed policemen and soldiers search everyone entering the city.

Our crew joined Philippine’s soldiers and rescue teams during raids across the city. Soldiers battle ISIS-linked gunmen on the streets and search for arms caches, while rescue teams inspect abandoned apartments looking for trapped civilians. Many survivors have endured a week without tap water and electricity.