Hashima Mohammed Salim recently convened a meeting of members of her clan who lost relatives after militants allied to the Islamic State (IS) laid siege to the southern Philippine city of Marawi a year ago.
They had to make a decision – and quick – because what little money they had saved was dwindling fast and aid agencies were delivering less assistance every week, she recalled. After a brief huddle, they made a painful decision.
Her family opted to migrate to Manila to find jobs, but she would stay in Iligan, about 38 km (23.6 miles) north of Marawi, to carry on a grim search for their missing relatives.
“It is very sad to come up with a decision that will break up my family and for me to stay,” Salim, 29, told BenarNews.
As the Philippines marks the first anniversary of the siege this week, dozens of families, including Salim’s, are searching for loved ones missing from the violence that transformed Marawi from a peaceful southern trading hub into a ruined cityscape, where health experts keep unearthing human bones amid piles of rubble.
The family picked Salim to stay behind, she said, because she was the most outspoken and educated member of the clan, which, like hundreds of others, live in dire conditions in evacuation camps or with relatives. The government has not allowed them to rebuild their homes, citing lingering dangers of unexploded ordnance strewn about Marawi.
Salim said some of her relatives remained missing, although she would not discuss their identities. They were believed to have been taken by gunmen when pro-IS fighters stormed the city exactly a year ago Wednesday in a failed bid to set up an Islamic caliphate in Southeast Asia.
What followed was an intense five-month battle that left some 1,200 people dead, many of them militants, according to the Philippine authorities.
Full story: BenarNews
Marawi, Philippines. Froilan Gallardo, Jeoffrey Maitem and Richel V. Umel reported from Marawi, and Mark Navales contributed reporting from Cotabato City, Philippines.
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