The Philippine city siege has bolstered Southeast Asian militants


JAKARTA — The siege of Marawi city in southern Philippines has helped militants in Southeast Asia to regroup and strengthened their desire to join the fight, according to an analyst report released Friday.

The siege by an alliance of militants supporting the Islamic State (IS) group, which has lasted for two months, “has lifted the prestige of the Philippine fighters” in the eyes of IS, said the Jakarta-based Institute for Policy Analysis of Conflict.

In Indonesia, it has helped unite two feuding streams of the pro-IS movement, inspired lone wolf attacks and “caused soul-searching among would-be terrorists about why they cannot manage to do anything as spectacular,” the report said.

“All of this suggests an increased incentive for jihad operations, though the capacity of pro-ISIS cells for organizing and implementing attacks outside the Philippines remains low,” it said.

“That could change with a few fighters coming back from either Marawi or the Middle East,” it added.

Even though Indonesia, Malaysia and the Philippines agreed in principle to cooperate to counter the threat, there is lingering distrust among the neighbours, the report said.

The crisis in Marawi City began on May 23 when an estimated 600 militants went on a rampage after government forces attempted to arrest a local leader of the Islamic State terrorist organization.

Nearly 100 government forces have been killed in the conflict, which has also left 421 militants dead.

Forty-five civilians have been executed by the militants while 40 displaced residents have died from illness.