Philippines Security Shaken as International Jihadists Seek Safe Haven

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As a Catholic-majority nation with a large Muslim minority in the southern islands, the Philippines has struggled with religious strife for decades. While extremist violence is not a new phenomenon, ISIS’ powerful message calling for global jihad has galvanized cooperation among extremist groups and attracted foreign militants to fight in the Philippines rather than in Syria and Iraq. As fighting over the city of Marawi enters its fourth week, militants maintain control of 20 percent of the city in spite of superior government firepower and troop numbers. As many as 1,000 civilians may still be trapped in militant-held territory. The Cipher Brief asked Richard Heydarian, a professor at De La Salle University in Manila, about the significance of the ongoing battle of Marawi for the Philippines and what it could mean for the strained relationship between the Philippines and the United States.

The Cipher Brief: The recent attack in Marawi is the boldest in recent memory, but Islamist extremism in the Philippines is not a new phenomenon. How did this conflict begin in the Philippines and how long has it been going on?

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