MANILA, Philippines (AP) — There is a large risk of further radicalization in the southern Philippines if there is unhappiness with the reconstruction of bombed-out Marawi city, where the government has declared victory over Islamic State group-aligned militants who laid siege to the city, a terrorism expert said Wednesday.
Sidney Jones, director of the Jakarta-based Institute for Policy Analysis of Conflict, also warned that children and younger siblings of slain militants may emerge as a new generation of fighters.
She told journalists in Manila that reconstruction of the city is key, and that a new militant movement with a more Islamist stance could develop and challenge the Moro Islamic Liberation Front, an older rebel group that has signed a peace deal with the government.
The military ended its offensive in Marawi on Oct. 23 after quelling the insurrection and sending a few remaining gunmen into hiding. More than 900 militants, 165 troops and policemen and 47 civilians were killed in the five months of fighting.
"One of the biggest dangers is that we have this ongoing radicalization taking place in a very quiet, below-the-radar-screen level in a way that can be exacerbated if there is a failure to rebuild Marawi very quickly or very efficiently," Jones said.
Other possible scenarios after the end of the Marawi conflict are revenge bombings in Manila or in other cities, and attacks on Philippine embassies abroad, she said.
Jones said the United States' offer of large rewards for the arrest or neutralization of militants may also have diverted attention from developing an overall strategy to combat extremism. The U.S. has deployed forces to train and assist Philippine troops in counter-terrorism.