ISIS Threat in Philippines Spreads in Remote Battles by Felipe Villamor – New York Times
The leader of the Islamic State in the Philippines, Isnilon Hapilon, is dead. The city his forces seized, Marawi, on the island of Mindanao, is all but completely back in government hands after months of scorched-earth combat.
But the Islamic State’s influence in the Philippines is far from over, and communities on Mindanao are bracing for the next battles…
That separatist movement, and the sectarian and political resentment that drove it, never really went away. It evolved into Muslim militant groups that fought the government for decades, and in recent years proved to be fertile ground for the Islamic State ideology and recruiters, as that Middle East-based movement sought to extend its influence around the globe.
That the old and resilient militant cells here are now being strengthened by the brand and resources of the Islamic State’s international network has people worried all over Mindanao — including even some of the Muslim militants whose former comrades joined the Islamic State.
In a twist that would have been unimaginable even after they signed a peace deal with the Philippine government three years ago, members of the Moro Islamic Liberation Front, or MILF, are now leading their former enemies in the army against what some believe could become the next big Islamic State uprising.
They are fighting in the forbidding marshlands of the town of Datu Salibo, about a 130-mile drive south from Marawi…