On Wednesday, June 28, the Philippine army announced it had found five decapitated bodies as fighting between Islamic State (IS)-affiliated militants and government forces in Marawi City entered its 36th day. This brings the official number of reported civilian deaths at the hands of the militants to 22. However, the impact of the fighting is likely to be much worse.
Unconfirmed reports by the army indicate that civilians have been taken hostage and that fighters have reportedly been using civilians as sex slaves.
A major armed conflict has been ongoing in Marawi City (Mindanao island) since May 23, following a botched government raid on a hideout sheltering Isnilon Hapilon, a commander of the Abu Sayyaf militant group. The Philippine government is battling different militant Islamist groups that are laying siege to the city, including IS-affiliated Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters (BIFF), the Abu Sayyaf militant group, and the Maute group. The conflict is sparking fear across the region as Indonesian and Malaysian nationals fight the extremist Islamist groups. The conflict is part of a wider decades-old insurgency in the marginalized Muslim-majority areas of the Philippines. Some 71 government soldiers and 299 militants have reportedly been killed in the conflict so far, as well as 246,000 people displaced.
Individuals in Marawi City are advised to remain indoors, to monitor the situation, and to obey all instructions issued by the local authorities.
As a reminder, most Western governments formally advise against all travel to southwest Mindanao and to the Sulu Archipelago due to terrorist activity, regular clashes between the military and insurgent groups, and the risk of kidnapping by Abu Sayyaf.