A bomb explodes during a government air strike in Mindanao, June 2017.
Romeo Ranoco / Reuters

After a year in office, Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte is confronting a full-fledged crisis on his home island of Mindanao. For almost a month, government soldiers have struggled to liberate Marawi, the largest Muslim-majority city in the country, from fighters affiliated with the Islamic State (ISIS) and led by the notorious Maute Group, a Filipino jihadist organization that laid siege to the city on May 23. The assault was likely a revenge attack, coming shortly after a botched government raid on a safehouse belonging to Isnilon Hapilon, a Filipino terrorist who was recently declared emir of ISIS fighters in Southeast Asia.  

The siege of Marawi is part of a wave of attacks by ISIS-affiliated groups seeking to establish a wilayat, or province of the Islamic State, in the Philippines. In recent days, other groups with ties to ISIS, namely the notorious Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters (BIFF), have launched simultaneous strikes in other parts of Mindanao, raising the prospect that terrorism will spread beyond Marawi. Duterte has even warned about the possibility of a civil war in Mindanao, if and when Christian communities choose to arm themselves against Muslim extremists as they did during previous rounds of sectarian conflict on the island.

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