Tag: Islamic State

Chaos in the Philippines as Islamist group storms city, abducts Christians and sets church on fire

A Catholic priest and 13 other Christians were taken hostage, while a cathedral and Protestant-run college were among the buildings set on fire, when an extremist group which has pledged allegiance to the Islamic State descended upon the city of Marawi in the southern Philippines on Tuesday, 23 May.

Three fires broke out, as around 100 armed members of the Maute group fired off their weapons, beheaded a police chief and erected the black flags of ISIS.

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The abducted priest was identified as Fr. Teresito Suganob, vicar-general of the prelature of Marawi, by a local bishop, Edwin De la Peña, who told the Catholic news agency Fides: “Today is the feast of our Prelature, the feast of ‘Mary, help of Christians’. The faithful were in church to pray on the last day of the novena. The terrorists broke into St Mary’s Cathedral, took the hostages and led them to an unknown location. They entered the bishop’s residence and kidnapped [Fr. Suganob]. Then they set fire to the cathedral and the bishop’s residence. Everything is destroyed. We are dismayed.

“The terrorists have occupied the city. People are terrified and locked in the house. We are waiting for the army’s reaction. The important thing is to regain the city with the least possible bloodshed. Hostages have not been mentioned. We have activated our channels, the Church and Islamic leaders, and we hope to be able to negotiate soon so they are released safe and sound.

“…We also appeal to Pope Francis to pray for us and to ask the terrorists to release the hostages in the name of our common humanity. Violence and hatred lead only to destruction: we ask the faithful all over the world to pray together with us for peace.”

Archbishop Socrates Villegas, president of the Catholic Bishops’ Conference in the Philippines, added that Fr. Suganob was “not a combatant. He was not bearing arms. He was a threat to none. His capture and that of his companions violates every norm of civilised conflict.”

Meanwhile, three of the buildings belonging to Dansalan College, which was established by the Protestant United Church of Christ, were burnt down yesterday. On its website, the college says it espouses the importance of interfaith relationship, as 95% of its students are Muslim, while 80% of its staff are Christian.

Reports say a hospital, the city’s jail, and several other establishments were also taken over by the gunmen.

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Martial law

Philippines President Rodrigo Duterte has reacted by cutting short a visit to Russia and imposing 60 days of martial law across the Mindanao region, where Marawi is situated. The 27 provinces and 33 cities in Mindanao make up roughly a third of the whole country.

Martial law gives more power to the military, including its ability to detain people for long periods without charge.

It is only the second time martial law has been imposed in the Philippines since the fall of former president Ferdinand Marcos in 1986.

Human rights groups and religious leaders criticised the president’s decision, calling it “uncalled for” and warning that it would “inevitably result in intensified military operations, including aerial strikes, which can kill and affect hundreds of civilians”.

Sixty days is the maximum period allowed for martial law under the Philippines’ Constitution, but President Duterte said in a video released by the government that “if it would take a year to [overcome the insurgents], then we’ll do it”.

After his return home today (24 May), Mr. Duterte said at a press briefing: “If I think that the ISIS has already taken foothold also in Luzon, and terrorism is not really far behind, I might declare martial law throughout the country to protect the people.”

Christians concerned

Although the Philippines is a majority-Christian country, the region of Mindanao has a strong Muslim presence and is home to the Maute group, which stems from a violent Islamist movement called the Moro National Liberation Front, which sought independence for decades, hoping to create an independent Islamic state.

“On the ground, the people are asking for prayers,” a local source told World Watch Monitor. “The residents are threatened. They say homes are being trespassed, and that women not in hijabs are being taken away. The black flags are perched on top of a police car and a hospital. Social media screams with pleas for help, screenshots of texts of relatives on lockdown. One post says people must recite the shahada [Islamic profession of faith] when asked, else be killed.

“The fighting is said to spring from a hunt for Isnilon Hapilon, local Abu Sayaff leader tagged as the head of ISIS in the Philippines. Hapilon has not been caught.

“The military says things are in control now, and denies that ISIS was involved, saying the local Maute group was wreaking havoc only to get foreign attention.”

Source: World Watch Monitor

Turkey wedding suicide bomber ‘was child aged 12-14’

A suicide bombing which killed 51 people in the Turkish city of Gaziantep was carried out by a 12 to 14-year-old, President Recep Tayyip Erdogan said.


The streets filled with people just after the blast on Saturday evening

Mr Erdogan said the so-called Islamic State (IS) was behind the attack, which targeted a Kurdish wedding party. Gaziantep, near the Syrian border, is known to have several IS cells.

The bomb wounded 69 people, Mr Erdogan added, 17 of them seriously.

The bomber targeted the wedding guests as they danced in the street.

The BBC’s Seref Isler, who is from Gaziantep, says the city of 1.5 million was already on edge because of events in Syria, where IS has been battling Syrian Kurdish forces.

A suicide bomber believed to have links to IS killed two policemen in Gaziantep in May.


A police officer secures the scene of an explosion where a suspected suicide bomber targeted a wedding celebration in the Turkish city of Gaziantep, Turkey, 21 AugustImage copyrightREUTERS

Was IS behind this? Analysis by Mark Lowen, BBC News, Istanbul

The choice of target seems designed for maximum effect: those enjoying a moment of a celebration at a wedding party.

If this was an attack by so-called Islamic State, it could be a response to the jihadists’ recent loss of territory in Syria. Kurdish fighters with the US-led coalition drove them out of a stronghold, Manbij. Perhaps this attack on a Kurdish wedding in Gaziantep was an act of revenge.

It comes as Turkey’s prime minister announces that his government will play a more active part in the Syrian conflict. We understand that Turkish-backed rebels are preparing a further offensive into the IS-held province of Jarablus and will be granted safe passage across the Turkish border. This attack could have been a warning shot by IS.

In a written statement published by local media (in Turkish), Mr Erdogan argued there was “no difference” between IS, the Kurdish militants of the PKK, and followers of US-based cleric Fethullah Gulen, whom he blames for the coup attempt last month.

“Our country and our nation have again only one message to those who attack us – you will not succeed!” he said.


Victims of the blast included a three-month old baby girl

‘Blood everywhere’

The bomb went off in a part of town popular with students and which has a large Kurdish community.

Local MP Mahmut Togrul told the Reuters news agency it had been a Kurdish wedding.

Mr Togrul’s party, the pro-Kurdish Peoples’ Democratic Party (HDP), said the wedding had been for one of its members.



Women wait outside a morgue in the Turkish city of Gaziantep, 21 AugustImage copyrightREUTERS

According to a report (in Turkish) by Turkey’s Dogan news agency, the couple had moved to Gaziantep from the Kurdish town of Siirt further east to escape fighting between Kurdish rebels and security forces.

Media reports in Turkey said that the married couple survived the blast but were taken to hospital.

On Sunday morning, smashed garage doors and windows could be seen at the site of the blast, Reuters reports.

“The celebrations were coming to an end and there was a big explosion among people dancing,” said Veli Can, 25.

“There was blood and body parts everywhere.”

The United States condemned the attack, calling it a “barbaric act”.

Ned Price, a spokesman for the US National Security Council, said: “We stand with the people of Turkey as they defend their democracy in the face of all forms or terrorism.”

On Saturday, Turkey’s government said the country would take a more active role in efforts to end the war in Syria.


Deadliest recent attacks on civilians in Turkey
20 August: Bomb attack on wedding party in Gaziantep kills at least 51 people, IS suspected

29 June: A gun and bomb attack on Ataturk airport in Istanbul kills 45 people, in an attack blamed on IS militants

13 March: 37 people are killed by Kurdish militants in a suicide car bombing in Ankara

17 February: 29 people, many of them civilians, are killed in an attack on a military convoy in Ankara

12 January: 10 people, including at least eight German tourists, die in a suicide bombing in Istanbul, thought to have been carried out by IS

October 2015: More than 100 people die in a double suicide bombing at a Kurdish peace rally in Ankara – the deadliest attack of its kind on Turkish soil

Source: BBC News

Egyptian Government Turns Blind Eye to Brutal Attacks on Christians

As attacks against the Coptic Orthodox Church escalate in Egypt, human rights advocates say that country’s government has not done enough to protect the Christian minority.


Christians have been stabbed, shot, and seen their houses and churches set on fire. Since May there have been at least one dozen attacks reported.

On June 30, a Coptic priest was shot in Al Arish, North Sinai. The Islamic State took credit for the attack and accused the priest of “waging war against Islam.”

Most attacks are happening the region around Minya, in the south.Because of a rumor about her son having a relationship with a Muslim woman, an elderly Coptic woman was stripped, beaten, and paraded through the streets in her hometown of Minya. She later forgave her attackers in a public video.

Despite her forgiveness, witnesses say the police were late and inefficient in responding to the situation.

“It is escalating in a very short time,” said Mina Thabet, with the Egyptian Commission of Rights and Freedoms, in response to attacks in Minya.

Thabet said that radical Islamists have a deeply rooted presence in local government and schools. Add a close to 40 percent illiteracy rate and 30 percent of the poorest villages are located there, people are easily manipulated.

“They are all factors,” Thabet said. “You can’t separate the economic and social factors from the equation. It’s a complicated equation.”

Coptic Bishop Makarious of al-Minya, the city with the highest concentration of Christians in Egypt, holds the government responsible for the continuous attacks on the Coptic Christians of Minya.

The bishop derided how the media refers to the attacks as “clashes” as if two parties were fighting one another. Instead, he says the attacks are only one side.

“Within minutes [of the start of one of the attacks], 100 Muslims instantly appeared, fully armed, as if ready for war,” he said.

He also said there are no consequences for attackers and they know it.

“As long as the attackers are never punished, and the armed forces are portrayed as doing their duty, this will encourage others to continue the attacks, since, even if they are arrested, they will be quickly released,” he said.


Local authorities also traditionally make Christians attend “reconciliation sessions,” where two parties negotiate a settlement out of court. But Christians are often forced to surrender their rights and leave their homes as a result.

“Some of the authorities always smile at what is happening.” Bishop Makarious said. “Of course I don’t assume that all authorities have the interest of the nation at heart and are sincere, because if they did, these attacks would not happen time and again, at a rate now of every two or three days.”

Ishak Ibrahim, researcher of religious freedoms at EIPR, told Egyptain newspaper Mada Masr said the effect sends a message of no equality under the law.

“No matter what you do and how you break the law, you will not be punished,” he said.

“What happened in Minya is nothing but a natural result of not enforcing the law in previous sectarian attacks against the Copts, and forcing the Copts to go through reconciliation meetings and obey illegal solutions that are demeaning,” Ibrahim said.

Activists say that the first step towards justice would be removing restrictions on building churches, however without rule of law that step cannot be made.

Source: CBN News

Iraq: Car bomb near Khalis ‘kills at least 17’


At least 17 people have been killed by a car bomb in the central Iraqi town of Khalis, officials say.

The explosion, about 49 miles (80km) north-east of the capital, Baghdad, was “very strong” a provincial official told a private TV station.

Hospital sources said the death toll was expected to rise, Reuters reports.

The blast comes a day after so-called Islamic State (IS) said it was behind a suicide bomb attack on a security checkpoint in Baghdad.

At least 20 people were killed in Sunday’s attack.


The area targeted in Baghdad on Sunday was a Shia area of the city

It is not yet known who was behind the bombing in Khalis, a predominately Shia town about eight miles north of Baquba, the main city of Diyala province.

In recent months, IS has lost control of some major towns and cities it seized in Iraq in 2014 and has stepped up suicide attacks in apparent response.

The militant group follows an extreme form of Sunni Islam and often targets Shia Muslims, who it regards as apostates.

A security source told the BBC that 22 people had been injured in the explosion on Monday morning at checkpoint about two miles west of Khalis town centre.

A police officer at the scene said a suicide car bomber was responsible.

“We still have charred bodies inside many vehicles including a minibus packed with women and children,” the captain, requesting anonymity, told Reuters.

Adi al-Khadran, the representative of Diyala province, told private Al-Sumaria TV that several vehicles had been set ablaze in the blast.

Source: BBC News

Iraq shrine attack: IS kills dozens in Balad

Suicide bombers and gunmen have killed at least 35 people in an attack by so-called Islamic State (IS) at a Shia shrine in the Iraqi town of Balad.


The site was attacked by suicide bombers, gunmen and mortar fire

At least one bomber blew himself up outside the mausoleum of Sayid Mohammed bin Ali al-Hadi, which was then stormed by gunmen, reports say.

Another bomber is said to have blown himself up among fleeing worshippers.

Meanwhile the death toll from Sunday’s suicide bombing in Baghdad has again been raised, from 281 to 292.

Amid growing public anger over the truck bombing, Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi fired the three top security officials in Baghdad on Friday.

They were the head of Baghdad’s security command, the head of interior ministry intelligence for Baghdad and the official responsible for Baghdad in the national security adviser’s office.

IS said five of its members had carried out the raid on the site in Balad. The militant group follows an extreme form of Sunni Islam and often targets Shias, who it regards as apostates.

About 50 people were injured in the attack, police and medical sources said.

Islamic State: The full story


The shrine is a site for Shia Muslim pilgrims

Worshippers were marking the Eid al-Fitr festival, celebrating the end of the Islamic holy month of Ramadan, when the site came under mortar fire.

The first bomber then struck a market at the entrance to the shrine.

A third bomber was shot dead before he was able to detonate his explosive vest, reports say.


It came four days after IS carried out the deadliest bombing in Baghdad, 45 miles (70km) south of Balad, since the 2003 US-led invasion.

That attack target a shopping complex in the mainly Shia Muslim district of Karrada.

IS militants overran large parts of northern and western Iraq two years ago, but government forces have since regained much of the territory.

In response to the battlefield setbacks, including the recent loss of the western city of Falluja, the militants have stepped up their attacks on civilians.

The Iraqi government has been accused of not doing enough to protect its citizens and has stepped-up security in Baghdad in response to the latest violence.

Source: BBC News