The extremist, jihadist Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) swept out of the desert sands of the two Middle East nations after the fall of Saddam Hussein in Iraq in 2003. Over the years, it captured wide areas in eastern Syria and northern Iraq, supported by fighters from various extremist groups around the world. On June 29, 2014, it captured Mosul in Iraq where it declared the founding of its “caliphate.”
Iraqi security forces, supported by Kurdish fighters, Sunni Arab tribesmen, and Shia militiamen, assisted by a coalition led by the United States, have steadily fought the Islamic State forces and this week, they were closing in on the last quarters held by the ISIS in Mosul. It has been a street-to-street battle, with snipers and suicide bombers. The Iraqi army said about 300 ISIS militants are left in Mosul of the 6,000 at the start of the offensive last October.
Those who have been following the fighting in Mosul fear Marawi City in Lanao del Sur may now be facing a similar ordeal as Philippine government forces close in on four barangays where the Maute fighters have reportedly dug in. Since the fighting began May 23, the armed forces said they have killed 337 Maute fighters, including several foreigners, while suffering 85 troopers dead along wih 39 civilians.
Previous attacks by such groups as the Abu Sayyaf and the Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters have been quickly stopped with a minimum of casualties. But the Maute attack in Marawi has now lasted six weeks with no end in sight. As in Mosul, the fighting in Marawi has been street by street, building by building. Bodies of civilians trying to escape have been found in the streets, some of them beheaded as in Syria and Iraq.
Truly, this has not been the usual two or three-day encounter between opposing company-sized units. This has been a rebellion, which President Duterte countered wih a proclamation of martial law in all of Mindanao. This has now been affirmed by the Supreme Court when it dismissed last Tuesday three petitions questioning the factual basis of the proclamation.
With that legal issue out of the way, the nation must now concentrate on ending the rebellion with all possible resources, including the assistance of our allies. The Islamic State extremists who are cornered in Mosul, Iraq, are the same group of extremists holding on to four barangays in Marawi City. The extremism of the kind long pursued by the Islamic State in the Middle East must not be allowed to gain a foothold in our country.