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The Battle of Marawi: The Story of Marawi Siege

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Marawi is one of an island at the southern part of Mindanao in the Philippines, where it is also the largest Muslim populated. The Battle of Marawi was also known as the Marawi Siege. This siege started on the 23rd May 2017, and it took five months to end. The Marawi siege was between Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant group (ISIL) which they were also known as Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS), including affiliated groups from Abu Sayyaf and the Maute brothers (Jihadist group), between Philippines government forces. This siege was made in the history of Philippines, where this siege became the longest urban battle that they ever encountered.

The Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) stated that the fighting in Marawi was due to a raid conducted by the military in coordination with the Philippine National Police, contrary to earlier reports that the clash was initiated by the militant groups. Rolando Bautista, commanding general of the Philippine Army 1st Infantry Division, stated that they had received reports of impending activity two or three weeks ahead of time. As the combined military and local police team conducted zoning in Marawi to validate the information that suspicious personalities including Omar and Abdullah Maute were consolidating in the area, their team spotted instead Isnilon Hapilon. According to the Philippine military, Hapilon had been appointed as emir of the IS forces in the Philippines and was consolidating his group with the Maute and other terrorist groups. After residents of Marawi reported the presence of an armed group within their locale and after the AFP verified the information, the military launched a “surgical operation” to capture Hapilon only to stumble into an entire city of armed men.

The whole city was put on lockdown as several buildings and houses were set ablaze by members of the Maute group. Power and communication lines were also shut down due to the continued hostilities. Roads leading to Marawi were blocked by both government security forces and Maute militants. The military are using fighter jets and helicopters to blast militants out of the city, on the island of Mindanao, which has been a warzone for three weeks.

The Philippine air force launched strikes against remnants of the group in three nearby villages. The residents reported seeing civilians killed after the military dropped bombs on Maute positions. Sources said the houses were targeted because of the presence of Maute snipers. Almost the entire population of about 200,000 have fled, but beyond the checkpoints fencing it off there are still hundreds of civilians who cannot get out due to the violence or are being held hostage.

According to AFP Western Mindanao Command chief Lt. Gen. Carlito Galvez Jr., dwellings in the area were intentionally set on fire so as to keep them from being used as cover by the Maute. Limited air strikes were also used on Maute sniper positions. Galvez stated that no civilians were reported killed in the air strikes, and it was his hope they could keep military casualties low as well. The 1st Infantry Division spokesman Lt. Col. Jo-Ar Herrera said that they have identified where they are consolidating so they are doing surgical air strikes to destroy the local terrorist group. The military troops and Special Action Force continued on their clearing operations by checking each house and building in the city’s downtown area. Misuari ordered the Moro National Liberation Front to fight any Maute in Lanao Del Sur. Misuari offered a unit of 500 to 700 MNLF fighters to help fight the extremists. The Moro Islamic Liberation Front and the government decided to implement a “peace corridor” in Lanao Del Sur as part of an effort to hasten humanitarian operations for displaced Marawi residents. The corridor spans from Marawi proper down to the Malabang town.

A friendly fire incident was took place. It was reported that eleven soldiers were killed and seven others were wounded by a military air strike as government security forces struggled to drive off remnants of the militant groups from the city. The incident happened when a SIAI-Marchetti SF.260 turboprop aircraft providing close air support “over militant positions in Marawi” dropped a bomb that accidentally hit an army unit locked in close-range combat with the militants. Two Philippine Air Force planes bombed rebel positions, but one plane missed its target and instead hit government troops on the ground, killing 10 soldiers.

Senator Antonio Trillanes called the incident “tragic and unfortunate” as he called on the military to ensure that similar incidents will never happen again. Over the weekend, US Special Forces were confirmed to have joined Philippines troops to help end the siege, according to a US embassy. Philippine military confirmed the US Special Forces would be assisting local troops to end the siege, but only to provide technical support.

On 4th June, a ceasefire agreement was reached between the Philippine government and the ISIL fighters remaining in the center of Marawi. This ceasefire had been facilitated by MILF, which had been asked by Duterte to help negotiate a settlement by which civilians still trapped in the city could be evacuated. The ceasefire was set for four hours. However, the Philippines Military units in the city refused to accept the terms of the ceasefire, and only allowed the evacuation of those individuals on the edges of the areas controlled by ISIL. Authorities claimed that the total number of civilian casualties had increased, all killed by militants, while local residents claimed that airstrikes had killed dozens of civilians.

On 23rd June, the Philippine government accepts Australia’s offer to send two AP-3C Orion surveillance aircraft to assist the Armed Forces of the Philippines in Marawi. Two surveillance planes which were committed by Australia started conducting operations in Marawi. Filipino pilots and technicians are aboard the aircraft and will assist in relaying information to forces on the ground. The mission involving the Australian planes will take place for two weeks.

Another friendly fire was happened again when a FA-50PH Golden Eagle fighter jet missed a target by 250 meters (820 ft) which killed two soldiers and injured 11 others. All FA-50s were grounded pending an investigation while other air assets of the Philippine Air Force remained operating in Marawi. Duterte is considering to extend the martial law until the end of the year, which is 31st December. The president insists that Martial Law is needed for faster rehabilitation of Marawi after the battle has ended. Duterte said the Marawi crisis birthed a “newly evolving type of urban warfare” and his declaration of martial law in Mindanao is meant to fight this menace.

On the 20th July, Militant control over Mapandi Bridge ended when government forces took control of the structure. The millitary push the millitant leaders and cornered them in a battle zone restricted to 500 square metres. Not long after capturing the Mandapandi Bridge the government forces recaptured the second bridge which connects the conflict area to the city center. The millitary took control of Bayabao Bridge after clashes with militants. On the 24th sep Government forces secured Masiu Bridge also known as the Raya Madaya Bridge, one of the critical bridges which the militants had occupied and which leads to Lake Lanao, thus depriving the militants of an escape route. This was described by the government as a significant development in the battle.

On 23rd October, the AFP cleared the final ISIL-held building in Marawi, fully recapturing the city. General Eduardo Ano stated bodies of 42 dead militants were found in two buildings and a mosque in the battle zone, stating that it was possible that some militants were still hiding. The bodies also included two wives of Maute gunmen. Meanwhile, Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana announced the end of the battle and the end of combat operations in the area.

On 16th November, the AFP stated that they believed there were no more stragglers in Marawi, due to the lack of fighting between both sides for the past few weeks. The siege left the city in ruins with 95 percent of heavily damaged and completely collapsed. 3,152 buildings were completely destroyed and 2,145 buildings were partially to heavily damage due to the five month heavy bombardment during the siege.

The urban conflicts such as the Marawi siege in southern Philippines provide a useful lesson. Firstly, the main point that should be were about the knowledge of the military. The military should have been studied about urban warefare also. As the resources from the Al-Jazeera news were told the lack of knowledge dealing in the urban warfare cause many lives of the government forces. By this conflicts other countries have to strengthen their training and fighting doctrine on urban warfare. Urban warfare is something in which we in our own organization need to strengthen our capability and need to enhance it according to what’s currently happening. Study the involvement of other countries in conflicts and this will provide a lesson to us on how to strengthen our own doctrine.

The Philippine military, mostly trained in conventional warfare, was said to have been inadequately prepared for the attacks by the militants. One of the problems faced by the Philippine military during the Marawi conflict was the friendly fire on ground troops by its air force. It was reported that the Philippine air force had not held a joint-urban warfare exercise with the army.

The attacks on the city by the Abu Sayyaf and Maute groups came as a surprise to the Philippine security forces who had been battling insurgencies for decades but mostly in a non-urban setting. Military officials said the militants, who numbered about one thousand, brought in a new style of urban warfare that initially confused Filipino troops. These terrorists are using combat tactics that we’ve seen in the Middle East. We have to train our air power approach in an urban warfare situation. This will involve our weaponry, surveillance capabilities and assets.

Secondly was about the intel itself. As also source been told that the terrorist already plan to siege Marawi two years before. Where they planned those strategies at their camp in the jungle. The lack of air surveillance made by the Pilippine forces.

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