As the Islamic State loses caliphate territory in Iraq and Syria, a new video released by the terror group touts the growth of operations in the Philippines and the destruction jihadists unleashed on a Catholic church in Marawi.
Muslim fighters loyal to Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi began clashing with government forces in the city on Mindanao in the southern Philippines in May, eager to carve out a province for ISIS. The “Inside the Khilafah” video brags about how jihadists freed inmates from the local jail and attacked local churches, and called Marawi “a reward for holding firmly to the rope of Allah.”
The English-speaking narrator with an American accent, who has narrated other videos for ISIS’ Al-Hayat Media Center, said the occupation took root in Marawi because the Philippine government tried to “subjugate the Muslims” and “expel them from the land.” Like ISIS recruitment and operations in their shrinking home-base caliphate, the video also shows child soldiers fighting with the jihadists.
ISIS re-ups raw footage first released in June showing jihadists rampaging through a church, first toppling a large crucifix and stomping on it. They also toppled and smashed statues of Jesus, Mary and saints, tore up photos of Pope Francis and Pope Benedict XVI and set fire to the parish.
“After all their efforts it would be the religion of the cross that would be broken,” the narrator states. “The crusaders’ enmity toward the Muslims only served to embolden a generation of youth.”
One of the jihadists, vowing that “we will make more revenge,” holds aloft a photo of Pope Francis. “We will be in Rome, inshallah,” he says repeatedly before pointing his gun at the pontiff’s picture.
The narrator says that Philippine strongman Rodrigo Duterte, who is a Mindanaoan,”ran to his masters, the defenders of the cross, America, along with their regional guard dog Australia, and begged them for help, and despite having been previously insulted by Duterte, they were quick to put their differences aside.”
“America is continuing to be drawn into the lands of the Muslims all over the globe to be weakened and to bleed to death at the hands of the believers,” the American narrator adds.
The video shows a map of “America’s War on Islam”: Iraq, Syria, Sinai, West Africa, Libya, Yemen, Somalia, Afghanistan, Philippines.
As ISIS has previously pitched Syria and Iraq as a place where foreign fighters should make pilgrimage, the video brands Marawi “land of hijrah and jihad” and even promotes the natural beauty of the area. The foreign fighter flow to the original caliphate has slowed to a “trickle,” according to coalition officials; ISIS has shifted focus to drawing jihadists to other areas that it calls provinces.
Philippines Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana said this month that Marawi could be liberated from ISIS in “a month or two”; a month before that prediction, he said ISIS could be routed in one to four weeks. Lorenzana said the military was left “blind” after their top intelligence official in Marawi was killed.
“The armed forces did not want to accept the fact that the southern Philippines would one day be part of this ISIS movement,” he admitted.
About 360,000 residents have been displaced by the ISIS occupation and fighting.