Around 300 Islamic State (IS)-affiliated militants, members of the Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters (BIFF) group, stormed the village of Malagakit (town of Pigcawayan, North Cotabato province) at dawn on Wednesday, June 21. They attacked a military outpost and briefly occupied a primary school. According to military officials, the situation was quickly resolved and the militants withdrew with no reports of casualties. However, security forces are still investigating whether five hostages - taken by the militants as they retreated - are still being held.
Malagakit is located 190 km (120 mi) south of Marawi City, where government troops and IS militants continue to clash for the fifth consecutive week. As of June 18, the Philippines Armed Forces confirmed over 300 fatalities in the Marawi crisis, including 242 suspected terrorists, 59 soldiers, and 26 civilians.
The Philippines, Indonesia, and Malaysia have all been placed on the highest security alert level due to the heightened risk of terror attacks. Joint naval operations between all three countries were launched in the Sulu Sea on June 19, amid the fighting in Marawi. Martial law has been imposed across Mindanao province in an attempt to prevent IS from establishing a stronghold.
An estimated 500 militants from the IS-affiliated Maute and Abu Sayyaf groups entered Marawi on May 23, following a botched raid carried out by security forces on a hideout of a Abu Sayyaf militant group commander, Isnilon Hapilon. Hapilon is wanted by the United States for carrying out terrorist attacks targeting US citizens in the Philippines. He is also suspected of attempting to unite Philippine militant groups that have pledged allegiance to IS.
Individuals present in the Philippines are advised to avoid the area, to monitor the situation, and to obey all instructions issued by local authorities. Most Western government advise against nonessential travel to the eastern Indonesian provinces of Papua and West Papua, to Central Sulawesi province (especially Palu, Poso, and Tentena), and to Maluku province (especially Ambon), due to the potential of violent conflict.