Urban combat: the battle of Marawi

I remember hearing a little about this Islamic uprising in the Philippines two years ago, but I had no idea that the combat was so intense, or that it took place on such a large scale:

Marawi: a vicious urban siege

On 23 May 2017, security forces from the Philippines conducted a raid in the city of Marawi to capture an insurgent named Isnilon Hapilon—the former leader of the Abu Sayyaf Group (ASG) and self-proclaimed Emir of Islamic State in East Asia. The forces who conducted the raid reported much tougher resistance than expected. The insurgents were rapidly reinforced and quickly revealed extensive preparations throughout the city—well constructed defensive positions, concealed routes, hidden ammunition and arms caches, and an almost doctrinal urban defensive plan. The raid was repulsed, and by the end of the day the so-called Islamic State in the Philippines (IS-P) had triggered their long-laid plans to dominate the city.

Martial law was declared by President Rodrigo Duterte and a five month urban siege to regain the city commenced. The battle was pitched against a well-resourced, sophisticated enemy who had the ‘home ground advantage’. Extensive preparations had been conducted throughout the city and an intense, protracted and close-quarters battle – the likes of which has not been seen in the region in decades – became the only way to destroy the enemy and recapture the City. On 23 October, following 153 days of war, this gruelling mission was achieved.

The costs of the Battle of Marawi were high. Opinions on infrastructure damage vary but aerial imagery indicates that huge swathes of the city have been devastated by the fighting – the mass destruction flattening entire city blocks. The World Bank estimates it may take two decades to restore Marawi to its original condition. However, the true price of the battle is that paid by the people of Marawi and the lives of those fighting. 165 members of the AFoP were killed in action, with over 1,000 injured. Some reports indicate over 1,000 insurgents were killed in the siege, which also took the lives of 47 civilians. The fighting drove over 400, 000 people from their homes.

This article would make for a magnificent piece in the next volume of THERE WILL BE WAR, as it is a detailed review of the tactics utilized by the armed forces of the Philippines as well as the insurgents.


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