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Policy Brief

Decapitation, Retaliation, and the Indicators of Escalation in Mindanao

15 Nov 2023
Policy Brief by Kenneth Yeo Yaoren

This policy brief examines the recent developments within the Dawlah Islamiyah (DI) community in Mindanao, Southern Philippines, following the death of Abu Zacariah in Marawi. His demise has sparked significant upheaval, particularly regarding the leadership succession within the DI. Initially, the leader of the Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters (BIFF) was poised to become the next emir of Dawlah Islamiyah Philippines. However, in a surprising turn of events, he surrendered to the 6th Infantry Division of the Armed Forces of the Philippines. This event, along with other indicators, suggests a substantial weakening of DI groups in the region. The most notable aspect of this decline is the collective demoralisation among its combatants, evidenced by an unprecedented rate of surrender since 2020. Despite these developments indicating a potential diminishing threat, the study identifies three critical factors that could escalate conflicts: the possibility of a prison siege, increased intergroup cooperation, and the involvement of foreign fighters. These elements require continuous monitoring by authorities to effectively manage and mitigate the risk of renewed violence and instability in the region.