The Philippine military has begun a large scale offensive against the Maute terror group in Marawi, in an effort to liberate the city ahead of the Philippines' independence day on June 12. The army has called on Facebook and other social media websites to shut down dozens of accounts operated by Islamists as part of the liberation effort.
Militants who seized the town two weeks ago are preparing for a long siege according to authorities who reported on Monday, June 7, that militants had stockpiled weapons and food in mosques, tunnels, and basements. Officials estimate that at least 500-1000 civilians are still trapped in the city.
Checkpoints at all entry and exit points of Marawi City remain in place and military units have been deployed around Mindanao (including the city of Davao) out of fears of retaliatory attacks. Martial law has been imposed across the region in an attempt to prevent IS from establishing a stronghold in the country. The official death toll from over a week of fighting in Marawi between the military and IS affiliated militants is at least 178, including 60 militants. More than 224,000 residents of Marawi and nearby towns have been displaced as a result of the fighting.
An estimated 100 militants entered Marawi on May 23, following a botched raid carried out by security forces on a hideout of the commander of the Abu Sayyaf militant group, 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 the local authorities.
On a related note, most Western government advised 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 potential for violent conflict.
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