CONTENT PREVIEW
Terrorism & Insurgency

Martial law extension, activation of 11th Infantry Division, to reduce risk of large-scale terrorist attacks in Mindanao

27 December 2018
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A villager standing with a weapon on his farm in September 2018 in Datu Piang, Maguindanao. Datu Piang town is one of the oldest towns in central Mindanao and has been under the control and protection of the MILF against IS forces and influence. Source: Jes Aznar / Stringer

Key Points

  • Islamist militant capability has been degraded by increased pressure from the Filipino military, and although they will mount small IED attacks against security forces and engage in small-arms firefights, they are unlikely to conduct large assaults against cities over the next six months.
  • A small number of foreign fighters - up to approximately 100 - are contributing to local militants' tactical expertise. However, monitoring of transit corridors for militants attempting to get into the Philippines will likely prevent foreign fighters from initiating a step improvement in militant capability.
  • The Bangsamoro referendum, scheduled for 29 January, will provoke a short-term increase in small arms and IED attacks predominantly targeting security forces around polling stations, especially in Sulu Province.

Event

On 18 December 2018, President Rodrigo Duterte activated the 11th Infantry Division, composed of six battalions, which will focus on operations against the Abu Sayyaf Group (ASG) Islamist militant in Sulu.

On 18 December 2018, President Rodrigo Duterte activated the 11th Infantry Division, composed of six battalions, which will focus on operations against the Abu Sayyaf Group (ASG) Islamist militant in Sulu. Open source reporting is limited but local media report at least 840 troops and additional air assets will be deployed to Jolo Island. The deployment follows the Philippine Congress's approval on 12 December to extend martial law in Mindanao by another year. Executive Secretary Salvador Mediala stated that local Islamist groups still intended to establish an official Islamic State province in Mindanao.

Islamist militant groups in western Mindanao - including ASG, the remainder of the Maute Group, Ansarul Khilafah Philippines (AKP) and the Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters (BIFF) have not been able to replicate the intensity of their 2017 campaign, which centred on their occupation of Marawi City from May to October 2017, in 2018. According to Jane's terrorism data, there were 420 Islamist militant attacks in the Philippines over 2017, while there have been just 113 in 2018 - the lowest in the last five years.

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