Philippine Forces Cleared this City of Islamist Militants in 2017. It’s Still a Ghost Town. Story by Shibani Mahtani and Regine Cabato, Photos by Hannah Reyes Morales, Video by Jason Aldag – Washington Post
At the edge of a bridge leading into the heart of the devastation from a 2017 siege against Islamic State-linked militants, an electric-blue billboard stands apart from the ruins.
“Marawi will rise again! Soon . . .” it proudly declares in rainbow-colored letters.
So far, it sounds like an empty promise.
More than a year since Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte declared the city liberated, Marawi looks almost as it did when the bombs and bullets stopped flying in October 2017, following five months of urban combat.
Not a single new structure has been built. Almost none of the debris has been cleared. Snakes and mosquitoes infest the bright-green canopy of weeds engulfing the ruins. The odd stray dog has taken refuge inside battle-ravaged buildings.
About 100,000 people displaced from the Marawi violence are unable to return home, living with relatives or in camps across the southern island of Mindanao. This predominantly Muslim region has seen clashes for decades between Philippine security forces and various groups of insurgents and militants, including the Abu Sayyaf.
Marawi, however, stands apart…