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Global Terrorism - عالمی دھشتگردی

There is no commonly accepted definition of "terrorism". Being a charged term, with the connotation of something "mo...

Sunday, June 18, 2017

Conquering minds

FREED from Al Qaeda in 2001, the Tora Bora caves and the tunnels in Afghanistan have now fallen to violent extremists linked to the militant Islamic State (IS) group. This strategic ‘victory’ for the terrorist group came after the US dropped the so-called mother of all bombs in April on its hideouts, a network of tunnels in Afghanistan.

The IS march in Afghanistan has once again proved that finding new physical spaces is not a major issue for the terrorists; many conflict-ridden, ungoverned, and poorly administered territories are available — from the sub-Saharan region to the tribal areas in the Arabian Peninsula, from the bordering region between Afghanistan and Pakistan to the Philippines.

As the terrorists continue to mount threats to physical security, the response is also expected to remain focused on employing greater force. This is also making it more challenging for Muslim power elites to take on the terrorists in their ideological and intellectual spaces. The Trump administration’s renewed focus on hard approaches to countering terrorism could provide these elites with more excuses to continue living in their mental comfort zones.

Ironically, the claimants of Muslims’ religious leadership, Saudi Arabia and Iran, are accusing each other of supporting terrorism. However, the Saudi and Iranian counterterrorism mantras and alliances are nothing more than efforts to secure their own petty political and strategic interests — at the cost of the lives of those these two countries claim to lead.

The IS is a manifestation of the intellectual bankruptcy of the Muslim ruling elites.

Their actions are not only bringing trouble to themselves but are also fuelling sectarian tensions in Muslim societies and polarising Muslim-majority nations by forcing them to choose sides. This is an appalling situation, mainly for many Muslim states including Pakistan, which are struggling to adjust to the strategic and economic meltdown in the Middle East.

The IS is a manifestation of the intellectual bankruptcy of the Muslim ruling elites. The real challenge thus is not the expansion of the group in physical spaces, but the mindset of the ruling elites and their partners, ie the clergy, which is scared of new ideas. They don’t realise that their traditionalism and orthodoxy are eroding their own foundations.

The need to evolve intellectual responses for countering extremism notwithstanding, a review of collective wisdom and its expressions is also important, mainly to measure a nation’s level of resilience and maturity. Parliament is the true representative of the collective wisdom of Pakistanis. It has recently suggested a neutral role for Pakistan in the Middle East crisis. Similar parliamentary advice came on the Yemen crisis. The policymakers and media of both Saudi Arabia and UAE criticised this stance.

A statement circulating on social media, attributed to a top Saudi official, that criticised Pakistani neutrality and parliament, should not be surprising because many believe that our Arab brothers are not interested in Pakistan’s democratic credentials, but in the country’s military power.

Let’s not forget that when parliament took a neutral position on Yemen, the UAE tried to punish Pakistan through developing a strategic partnership with India, although it knew that India could not support their misadventure in Yemen.

Many opinion makers in Arab countries also accused Pakistan for ‘using’ parliament as an excuse to not send its troops for military adventures. Though in that case parliament proved a blessing for the establishment, the maturity it has shown over the issue is commendable. However, the actual challenge for parliament is to build intellectual and policy capital.

One can debate the capacity of parliamentarians and the government’s somewhat indifferent attitude towards parliament, but this is still the institution which is keeping the country cohesive. This is the institution which should address the issue of extremism and the IS in our minds.

Parliament can take the lead in nurturing the process of inclusive nation-building, by initiating debates on the extent to which diversity has been dissipated by policies of the past and incorporating the voices of different groups in the country. Parliament can draw an outline of a fresh national narrative. It can engage with all departments or institutions of the government, informing them of the consequences of their actions on social diversity.

An active and effective parliament can fill the spaces which exist in our thoughts and that are exploited by multiple ideological players including the IS. It is recognised that terrorist groups are more afraid of non-violent, soft measures than hard measures. They exploit hard measures by pushing the narrative of the ‘victimhood of Islamic forces’ to justify both their existence and their violent acts. Their reaction is stronger if someone challenges their narrative; be it religious scholars, the media or opinion makers. There are plenty of examples available that they hit hard those who challenge their arguments.

The content analysis of any militant publication would be helpful to understand the ideological paraphernalia of a terrorist group. For example, an old issue of Ahya-i-Khilafat (Revival of the Caliphate), a mouthpiece of the Tehreek-i-Taliban Pakistan, consisted of 15 articles including an interview with its leader and profile of a leading commander. Four articles were dedicated to their operations and so-called successes, two were against secularism, two detailed articles were meant to elaborate and glorify the caliphate system; but four articles were allocated to build their case against democracy and parliament. One article titled ‘I am a constitutional man’ was a satire on religious political leaders, ie what did it mean (for the militants) in religious terms when these leaders said they believed in a constitutional democracy.

Parliament is a target of non-state actors and our Arab friends are also not happy with the institution on different grounds. One is not sure whether or not our parliamentarians know their importance and the role they have to play in developing a moderate and inclusive Pakistan. If parliament fails, it will fail the nation.

Conquering minds: by Muhammad Amir Rana, The writer is a security analyst.
Terrorism is, in its broadest sense, the use of intentionally indiscriminate violence (terror or fear) in order to achieve a political, religious, or ideological aim. It is classified as fourth-generation warfare and as a violent crime. In modern times, terrorism is considered a major threat to society and therefore illegal under anti-terrorism laws in most jurisdictions[citation needed]. It is also considered a war crime under the laws of war when used to target non-combatants, such as civilians, neutral military personnel, or enemy prisoners of war. Keep reading >>>.

This recent tirade of radical 'Islamist violence' (which I define as a hybrid between theological and political aggression by Islamic entities) against a predominantly Muslim target pool, as opposed to 'culturally diametric' Western societies, has baffled many. As always, the counter-narrative on social media has been fierce and relentless, and quite diversified in the least. The last week saw Facebook and Twitter feeds turn into sordid carousels of tummy-tickling memes about fused-out politicians and gut wrenching images of bloodied bodies at the same time.
Unsurprisingly, the dramatic show of violence against innocents has regurgitated two interlinked pop-culture narratives (or perhaps 'counter-narratives') that have found strong currency in the past as 'valid counters to Islamophobia' – "terrorism has no religion”; and "these are not Muslims, they are psychopaths/criminals”. While they serve to immediately offset wholesale, irrational hatred against the global Muslim community after attacks by Islamist aggressors, the arguments are massively untenable in their own right.
Islamophobic monologues are generally premised upon a superficial understanding of terrorism, but what worries me is that the above counter-narrative too is a rabbit in rhino's skin. Is this 'pop culture' discourse against Islamist terrorism (and the resultant cultural hatred) a propagation of the same old reductive public discourse that is devoid of nuance and heavy on emotions? >>>>

Counter-terrorism (also spelled counterterrorism) (also called anti-terrorism) incorporates the practice, military tactics, techniques, and strategy that government, military, law enforcement, business, and intelligence agencies use to combat or prevent terrorism. Counter-terrorism strategies include attempts to counter financing of terrorism.

If terrorism is part of a broader insurgency, counter-terrorism may employ counter-insurgency measures. The United States Armed Forces use the term foreign internal defense for programs that support other countries in attempts to suppress insurgency, lawlessness, or subversion or to reduce the conditions under which these threats to security may develop >>>.

“THIS is a war of narratives ... there is a dire need to come up with counter-narratives ... the menace of terrorism cannot be dealt with without countering the extremist, militant ideologies.”  >>>>>

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    Sunday, June 11, 2017

    Death Cults

    Image result for death cults religion

    The term cult usually refers to a social group defined by its religious, spiritual, or philosophical beliefs, or its common interest in a particular personality, object or goal. The term itself is controversial and it has divergent definitions in both popular culture and academia and it also has been an ongoing source of contention among scholars across several fields of study. In the sociological classifications of religious movements, a cult is a social group with socially deviant or novel beliefs and practices  although this is often unclear. Other researchers present a less-organized picture of cults on the basis that cults arise spontaneously around novel beliefs and practices. The word "cult" has always been controversial because it is (in a pejorative sense) considered a subjective term, used as an ad hominem attack against groups with differing doctrines or practices. Groups said to be cults range in size from local groups with a few members to international organizations with millions. 

    An ageing man in Karachi who had travelled to Egypt to fight against the Israeli military during the 1967 Egypt-Israel war. After the war (which had lasted just six days and saw the Israelis wiping out the Soviet-backed Egyptian forces), the man had travelled to Jordan where he joined Yasir Arafat’s Palestine Liberation Organisation (PLO). He was soon sent to a village on the Lebanon-Israel border to mount guerrilla attacks against Israeli border guards. 
    Illustration by Abro
    During the planning of one such attack, the PLO squad he was part of split when there arose a possibility that the attack might cause civilian casualties. He told me that the majority of the men in his squad were against killing civilians and refused to take part in the attack which was eventually aborted. The man returned to Pakistan and set up a tea stall on Karachi’s I.I. Chundrigar Road. 

    Disturbed, confused and angry youth are easy recruits for militant groups promising them an identity in return for total obedience to a charismatic leader

    The reason I have briefly repeated this story here is to contextualise the mutation of the idea of modern Muslim militancy and/or how drastically it has changed in the last four decades or so.

    Professor of Political Science at Indiana University, James Lutz, in his 2005 book Terrorism: Origins & Evolution, wrote that most European left-wing and Palestinian guerrilla groups, between the 1960s and late 1970s, largely avoided inflicting civilian casualties because they wanted the media and the people to sympathise with them. 

    This is not to suggest that civilian deaths were always entirely avoided; it is however true that many militant groups often suffered splits within their ranks on this issue. The most well-known split in this context (and regarding Muslim militancy) was the one between Yasir Arafat and Abu Nidal in the PLO in 1974. Arafat had decided to abandon armed militancy and chart a more political course. Nidal on the other hand not only wanted to continue pursuing militancy but wanted to intensify it even further. He formed the violent Abu Nidal Organisation (ANO) which, by the 1980s, had become a notorious mercenary outfit for various radical Arab regimes in Libya, Iraq and Syria. 

    Even the anti-Soviet ‘mujahideen’ in Afghanistan — the forerunners of devastating ‘Islamist’ outfits such as Al-Qaeda — were conscious of receiving good press and public sympathy by avoiding civilian casualties. In spite of being heavily indoctrinated by CIA and Saudi-funded clerics in Afghanistan and Pakistan to embrace death as a religious duty, the mujahideen did not use suicide bombings, not even against Soviet forces. 

    The first-ever suicide bombing involving Muslim militants took place in Beirut in 1983 when a member of the Hezbollah drove a truck laden with explosives into a compound full of US military personnel. Yet, it was not until the 1990s, when so-called Islamic militants, many of who had never used violence against civilians during the Afghan insurgency, began to attack soft civilian targets in various Muslim-majority countries. 

    In his excellent 2004 BBC documentary, Power of Nightmares, film-maker Adam Curtis noted that those who fought in Afghanistan were made to believe (by their facilitators in the US and Saudi Arabia) that it was their ‘religious war’ which downed a superpower in Kabul — many such fighters returned to their home countries and tried to overthrow the existing governments there. 

    Since this time they were trying to uproot Muslim regimes (and not atheist communists), Curtis suggests that they believed that they could trigger uprisings among the people against ‘corrupt Muslim regimes’ by creating revolutionary chaos in the society. Thus, car bombs began to explode in public places and, as Curtis then notes, once these failed to generate the desired uprisings, suicide bombings became common when the militants became desperate. 

    It is also vital to note that suicide bombings, despite the fact that suicide is explicitly forbidden in Islam because it challenges God’s authority over life and death, was hardly ever condemned even by the supposedly apolitical and non-militant religious figures. This was especially true between the 1990s and the mid-2000s and largely because most Muslims were still stuck in the quagmire of the glorified narratives of divinely-charged bravado diffused by Muslim and US propagandists during the anti-Soviet insurgency. 

    For example, in Pakistan, suicide bombings were not condemned till 2014. Even as 50,000 people lost their lives to terror attacks between 2004 and 2014, many non-militant religious figures, reactionary media personalities and so-called experts were continuing to see sheer nihilist violence (in the name of faith) as reactions to state oppression, poverty, corruption, drone attacks, anything other than total nihilist madness. 

    Nihilism. That’s exactly what it really is. Famous French academic, author and a long-time expert on Islamic militancy, Oliver Roy, recently wrote in The Guardian [April 13, 2017], that the nihilist dimension is central to understanding the unprecedented brutality of outfits such as the Taliban, Al-Qaeda, and especially the militant Islamic state (IS) group. To them violence is not a means. It is an end in itself. Such nihilism that wants to wipe out existing social, cultural and political modes and structures of civilisation through ‘apocalyptic violence’ has been used before in varied forms and in the name of varied ideologies. Nazis in Germany did it in the name of Aryan supremacy; Mao Tse Tung in China did it in the name of ‘permanent (communist) revolution’; and the Khmer Rouge did it in Cambodia, by wiping out thousands of Cambodians and announcing communism’s ‘Year Zero.’ 

    But since Islamic nihilists are still in the shape of insurgents (and not part of any state), Roy sees them more as large apocalyptic death cults who this time just happen to be using Islam as a war cry, mainly because this gives them immediate media coverage. 

    Roy writes that just as disturbed teens and confused angry youth become easy recruits for cults promising them an identity (in return for total obedience to a charismatic leader), contemporary nihilists and death cults posing as ‘Islamic outfits’ attract exactly the same kind of following. 

    What’s more, after painstakingly going through the profiles of known young men and women who decided to join such cults and willed themselves to carry out the murder of civilians and of themselves, Roy found that only a tiny number of them were ever actually involved in any political movements before their entry into the outfit. Roy noted that most were ‘born again Muslims’ who had suddenly become very vocal about their beliefs and then were rapidly drawn in by the many recruitment tactics of nihilist cults operating as Islamic outfits around the world.

    Most telling is the fact that religious figures in Muslim countries had continued to see the nihilists as a radical expression and extension of the glories of the Afghan insurgency—only to now realise that to the nihilists they too are as much infidels as the Soviets were, or the Westerners are.

    SMOKERS’ CORNER: DEATH CULTS....  ByNadeem F. Paracha
    Published in Dawn, EOS, June 11th, 2017

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    Jihad, Extremism

      Sunday, June 4, 2017

      Combat Ideology of Terror: Going beyond Fatwas ( edicts)

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      Image result for edicts against terrorism
      NOT all interpret or acknowledge a fatwa, or religious decree, in a similar way. In a country like Pakistan, where religious and social behaviours work in an almost identical way, individuals and groups tend to accept only those parts of a command or judgement that best suit their ideologies or interests. This fact has been further vindicated by the emergence of varying responses to a recent fatwa against terrorism, issued by prominent religious scholars of the country.

      The government and moderate forces welcomed the decree for they believe it is an effective tool in countering religious extremism. It is not difficult to anticipate the response of militant and extremist groups. However, even the religious community appeared divided. Those at the helm of affairs at the Darul Uloom Akora Khattak — a seminary well known for its jihadist credentials as well as a beneficiary of state incentives, including a recent Rs300 million ‘counter-extremism’ award by the KP government — expressed some serious concerns.

      The head of the seminary, Maulana Samiul Haq, declared Muslim rulers puppets of the West who were unable to announce jihad against their masters. Leaders of radical religious groups expressed similar views, based on a notion that the Islamist militants are indeed waging jihad against the West. This is a notable fallacy.

      This is not the first fatwa against terrorism, but it is comparatively clear in its tone and expression, and unanimously declares suicide attacks and rebellion against the government legally forbidden (haram). Previous fatwas were ambiguous, their scope deliberately confined to Pakistan. Perhaps what irritates Maulana Samiul Haq is that this fatwa does not specifically exclude Afghanistan, where the Afghan Taliban are killing fellow Muslims.

      The ideological challenge posed by extremists is far too complex to be dealt with through fatwas alone.

      The fatwa will send a signal to militants that sections of the clergy are ready to discredit their violent agenda. It may also improve the immunity of those sitting on the fence vis-à-vis violent extremist ideologies. However, the ideological challenge posed by the Islamists and violent radicals is far too complex to be dealt with through fatwas alone.

      The Islamists’ purported agendas construct the mindset of violent radicals. Local socio-political issues act as a catalyst. These violent radicals are a product of our society, where Islamist forces shape our worldview.

      The idea of a model Islamic state and system nurtured by Islamist scholars including Hassan al-Banna, Syed Qutab, Taqi al-Din al Nabhani and Maulana Abul A’la Maududi is still shaping the consciousness of urban Muslim middle classes. Islamist parties are struggling to make the notion of an Islamic state viable in challenging environments. The Tunisian Ennahda is the only Islamist party that completely separated the religious agenda from politics and transformed itself into a democratic Muslim party. This is a model of success for Islamist parties across the world.

      The takfiri jihadists borrow the conceptual framework of an Islamic state and blend it with the restoration of the Islamic caliphate. They build their ideological, political and even operational paraphernalia on the notion of khurooj (going out or rebellion) against Muslim rulers. They bring their justification from the concept of takfir, ie declaring Muslims rulers transgressors, disbelievers and the companions of infidels. This is contrary to Maulana Samiul Haq’s belief that Islamist militants are fighting against foreign oppressors.

      The Islamist militants’ intellectual paradigm moves around the notion of rebellion against the state and the rejection of those who disagree with them. Here are a few questions that they often put forth:

      Citizens of a Muslim state are bound by their social contract, or constitution, to not take up arms against their government. Are there any exceptions?

      Should armed resistance against a government be an indispensible last option or is it a standard and required way of change? In the former case, what is the scope of the ‘need’ that makes the armed revolt indispensible? Is it limited to self-defence only or can it also include other objectives such as the enforcement of Sharia?

      Most religious scholars in Pakistan generally believe that it is almost impossible to establish an Islamic system of governance through the democratic system. In this situation, what is the hukm, or legal ruling, in Islam regarding a resort to armed struggle to establish an Islamic system?

      If the government of a Muslim country helps non-believers and infidels in acts of aggression against another Muslim country, what is the legal responsibility (for Muslims) in Islam?

      If some citizens of a Muslim state consider armed revolt in certain circumstances justified as khurooj, is it necessary for them to declare their support for the group or can they support and help it secretly, without revoking their allegiance to the state? What was the nature of support from Imam Abu Hanifa for those who participated in khurooj during his life?

      Deeper in the ideological discourse of Islamist radicals, we encounter ultra-radical thoughts and a range of ideologues who have structured their strategies around these notions. Abu Bakr al Najji’s book, The Management of Savagery, serves as a training manual for the militant Islamic State group. Abu Abdullah Muhajjer, another IS and Al Qaeda ideologue, in his manual Introduction to the Jurisprudence of Jihad, opposes the consensus among jurisprudents developed over the centuries and asserts that “killing kuffar [infidels] and fighting them in their homeland is a necessity even if they do not harm Muslims”. Mustafa al-Suri, in his lengthy account The Call to a Global Islamic Resistance, advocates for leaderless jihad, which nurtured a generation of lone wolfs. Al Qaeda chief Ayman al-Zawahiri’s criticism of Pakistan’s Constitution, Dawn and a Flickering Lamp, argues that Muslim countries’ social contracts are against the basic principles of Islam.

      Few attempts have been made by Muslim scholars to respond to the challenge. A fatwa would be effective only if it emerged from an intellectual exercise, providing answers to the questions posed by extremists and militants in their ideological discourse.

      Muhammad Amir Rana is a security analyst. He is the Director of Pak Institute for Peace Studies (PIPS), Islamabad, Pakistan.

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      Jihad, Extremism

        Seizing of Philippines city by Islamist militants a wake-up call for Southeast Asia

        MARAWI CITY: At the beginning of the battle that has raged for the past 12 days in Marawi City at the southern end of the Philippines, dozens of Islamist militants stormed its prison, overwhelming the guards.

        `They said `surrender the Christians`,` said Paridah P. Ali, an assistant director of the regional prison authority. `We only had one Christian staff member so we put him with the inmates so he wouldn`t be noticed, he said.

        Fighters from the Maute group, which has pledged allegiance to the IS, menaced the guards and shouted at prisoners: but no one gave up the Christian man. `When they freed the inmates, he got free,` said Ali.

        It was a brief moment of cheer, but over the next few hours the militants took control of most of the city, attacked the police station and stole weapons and ammunition, and set up roadblocks and positioned snipers on buildings at key approaches. The assault has already led to the death of almost 180 people and the vast majority of Marawi`s population of about 200,000 has fled.

        The seizing of the city by Maute and its allies on the island of Mindanao is the biggest warning yet that the IS is building a base in Southeast Asia and bringing the brutal tactics seen in Iraq and Syria in recent years to the region.

        Defence and other government officials from within the region told Reuters evidence is mounting that this was a sophisticated plot to bring forces from different groups who support the IS together to take control of Marawi.

        The presence of foreigners intelligence sources say the fighters have included militants from as far away as Saudi Arabia, Pakistan, Chechnya and Morocco alongside locals in Marawi, has particularly alarmed security officials.

        For some time, governments in Southeast Asia have been worried about what happens when battle-hardened IS fighters from their countries return home as the group loses ground in the Middle East, and now they have added concerns about the region becoming a magnet for foreign jihadis.

        `If we do nothing, they get a foothold in this region,` said Hishammuddin Hussein, the defence minister of neighbouring Malaysia.

        Defence and military officials in the Philippines said that all four of thecountry`s pro-IS groups sent fighters to Marawi with the intention of establishing the city as a Southeast Asian wilayat or governorate for the radical group.

        Mindanao roiled for decades by Islamic separatists, communist rebels, and warlords was fertile ground for IS`s ideology to take root. This is the one region in this largely Catholic country to have a significant Muslim minority and Marawi itself is predominantly Muslim.

        It is dif ficult for governments to prevent militants from getting to Mindanao from countries like Malaysia and Indonesia through waters that have often been lawless and plagued by pirates.

        The Combating Terrorism Center, a New York-based think tank, said in a report this week that IS is leveraging militant groups in Southeast Asia to solidif y and expand its presence in the region. The key will be how well it manages relations with the regions jihadi old guard, CTC said.

        Commander fired The Maute group`s attack is the biggest challenge faced by Phihppines President Rodrigo Duterte since coming to power last June. He has declared martial law in Mindanao, which is his political base.

        His defence forces were caught off guard by the assault and have had difficulty in regaining control of the city on Saturday they were still struggling to wipe out pockets of resistance.

        On Monday, Brigadier-General Nixon Fortes, the commander of the army brigade in Marawi, was sacked.

        An army spokesman said this wasunrelated to the battle. But a military source, speaking on condition of anonymity, told Reuters on Friday that Fortes was dismissed because not all his forces were in the city when the rebels began their rampage, even though military intelligence had indicated that Islamist militants were amassing there.

        The assault came just months after security forces attacked the mountain lair of Isnilon Hapilon, a long-time leader of Abu Sayyaf, or `Father of the Sword`, a notorious Islamist militant group known for kidnapping. He swore allegiance to IS in 2014, and quickly got other groups to join him.

        Most important among them was the Maute group, run by brothers Omar and Abdullah Maute from a wellknown family in Marawi. In a video that surfaced last June, a Syria-based leader of the group urged followers in the region to join Hapilon if they could not travel to the Middle East. Hapilon was named IS leader in Southeast Asia last year. The Philippines military said Hapilon was likely wounded in the raids but managed to escape to Marawi, where he joined up with the Maute group. According to a statement on a social media group used by Maute fighters, the group wants to cleanse Marawi of Christians, Shias, and polytheists who believe in more than one God. It also wants to ban betting, karaoke and so-called relationship dating.

        Mountain lairs Some officials said Philippines security forces became complacent about the threat from IS after the January raids.`We did not notice they have slipped into Marawi because we are focusing on their mountain lairs,` Philippines Defence Secretary Delfin Lorenzana told reporters.

        Over the past few months, Philippine and Indonesian intelligence sources said, Hapilon`s forces were swelled by foreign fighters and new recruits within Marawi. Many of the outsiders came to Marawi using the cover of an Islamic prayer festival in the city last month, said Philippines military spokesman Lt. Col. Jo-Ar Herrera.

        Lorenzana said that Hapilon brought 50-100 fighters to join Maute`s 250-300 men, while two other groups, the Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters and the Ansar Al-Khilafah Philippines, together brought at least 40 militants with them.

        On May 23, four days before the start of Ramazan, they launched their attack when Philippine forces made an abortive attempt to capture Hapilon inside Marawi.

        After the military retreated in the face of a phalanx of armed guards, about 400 militants quickly f anned out across the city, riding trucks mounted with 50-calibre machine guns and armed with rocket-propelled grenadesand high-powered rifles.

        Within hours, they attacked the jail and nearby police station, seizing weapons and ammunition, according to accounts from residents.

        The Dansalan College, a Protestant institution, and the Catholic Cathedral of Maria Auxiliadora, were both razed, and a priest and about a dozen other parishioners captured. They remain hostages.

        A Shia mosque was also destroyed, and a statue of Jose Rizal, the Philippines hero of the uprising against Spanish rule, was beheaded.

        Snipers on rooftops Herrera said the attack had the hallmarks of a professional military operation. `There was a huge, grand plan to seize the whole of Marawi, he said. After the initial battle, IS flags flew across the city and masked fighters roamed the streets proclaiming Marawi was theirs, using loud-hailers to urge residents to join them and handing out weapons to those who took up the offer, according to residents. The military broughtin helicopters tohre rockets at militant positions as ground troops began to retake key bridges and buildings, though some resi-dents this has also led to the deaths of civilians.

        `ISIS people were running on the street, running away from them. They were bombing them in the street [but] it hit our house and the mosque. Many other houses too,` said Amerah Dagalangit, a pregnant 29-year-old in an evacuation centre near Marawi.

        `Many people died when the bomb exploded,` she said, adding that a Muslim priest and children were among the victims.

        Military officials said they had not received any report of the incident.

        Reuters could not independently verify the account.

        The military has said 20 civilians have been killed in the fighting and that all were at the hands of the militants. It also says 120 rebels and 38 members of the security forces have been killed, including 10 soldiers who died from friendly fire in an airstrike.

        `People will get killed` Officials in neighbouring Indonesia worry that even if the Filipinos successfully take back Marawi in coming days, the threat will still remain high.

        `We worry they will come over here,` said one Indonesian counterterrorism official, noting that Mindanao wasn`t very far from the Indonesian island of Sulawesi.

        More than 2,000 people remain trapped in the centre of Marawi, with no electricity and little food and water.

        Some are pinned down by the crossfire between the military and the militants, while others fear they will be intercepted by the militants as they flee, according to residents.

        The bodies of eight labourers who had been shot in the head were found in a ravine outside Marawi last Sunday.

        The police said they had been stopped by the militants while escaping the city.

        There will most likely be more civilian casualties in retaking the city, the military said.

        `We are expecting that people will get starved, people will get hurt, people will get killed,` said Herrera, the military spokesman. `In these types of operations,