Cells, Factions and Suicide Operatives: The Fragmentation of Militant Islamism in the Philippines Post-Marawi
- Contemporary Southeast Asia: A Journal of International and Strategic Affairs
- ISEAS–Yusof Ishak Institute
- Volume 41, Number 1, April 2019
- pp. 114-137
- Additional Information
The siege of Marawi City in 2017 by militants flying the black flag of the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS) was one of the most significant events in the development of militant Islamism in Southeast Asia. The devastation of the attack, however, was followed by a major breakthrough in the peace process in the Southern Philippines with the formation in early 2019 of the Bangsamoro Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (BARMM). The consequences of these two major events represent a critical juncture in the conflict in Mindanao in which the pattern of militant Islamism is highly fluid. Surveying the situation in Mindanao post-Marawi siege, this article argues that, in parallel to the decline of ISIS in the Middle East, the conflict in Mindanao is undergoing a transitional phase in which the dominant pattern of militant Islamism is shifting from one of insurgency to clandestine terrorism, characterized by a protean network of small but more ruthless groups. This development is marked by the emergence for the first time ever of suicide bombings in the Philippines. If suicide bombing becomes normalized in the Philippines as the most desperate tactic of a decentralized terrorist network, it will present a formidable new challenge to both the Philippine state and the nascent autonomous government in Muslim Mindanao.