How the Manchester attack echoed in the Philippines

Philippine policemen walk with evacuees from Marawi at a checkpoint on the southern Philippines island of Mindanao Image copyright AFP
Image caption Philippine policemen walk with evacuees from Marawi at a checkpoint on the southern Philippines island of Mindanao

Why did a hashtag originating in the Philippines go global after the suicide attack in Manchester?

On social media, the reaction was immediate. In the wake of the deadly terror attack at Manchester Arena, people around the world rallied to support the victims, using hashtags like "Pray for Manchester" and "We Stand Together".

However, one of the top trending topics in the aftermath of the attack focused on events on the other side of the world. More than 1.3 million tweets used the hashtag "Pray For Marawi" - a city of 200,000 on the island of Mindanao in the Philippines - where Muslim separatists and other rebels are fighting the Filipino army.

According to the Filipino government, militants belonging to the Maute Group and the Abu Sayyaf Group - two local groups that have pledged support to so-called Islamic State (IS) - swarmed the streets of Marawi on Tuesday.

The Philippines has faced Muslim separatist movements for decades in Mindanao, which has a significant Muslim population - the country is mainly Catholic. The Maute group has carried out several bombings and kidnappings in Mindanao region in recent years.

Responding to the current offensive, Defence Secretary Delfin Lorenzana said militants had occupied a hospital and a jail, and burnt down buildings including a church. Officials say that three members of the security forces have been killed and, in response, President Rodrigo Duterte has declared martial law in Mindanao.

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Image copyright Reuters
Image caption Security forces have been patrolling streets in Mindanao after the declaration of martial law

The events in Manchester and Marawi might have been separated by 7,000 miles (11,200km), but the groundswell of online attention that surrounded the Marawi fighting was clearly linked to the Manchester bombing.

Filipinos who noticed #PrayForManchester - which has been tweeted 3 million times - called for similar attention to be given to their cause. The "Pray For Marawi" hashtag was propelled by a tweet from Crissa Irag, who said:

Image copyright Crissa Irag/Twitter
Image caption "Grabe" means "very much" or "seriously"

This was followed soon after by similar tweets. "Marawi city, a part of the Philippines has been under attack by ISIS please pray for my country too," read one. One message used both the "Pray for" hashtags and commented "rough day for humanity".

One of the most popular posts came from Haron Ar Rashid Dima, whose family lives in Marawi. He posted pictures of burning buildings, which he says were sent to him by friends and family members stuck in the city.

A focus on Islam has been a common feature of "Pray For Marawi" tweets. Dima told BBC Trending that many people in the Philippines are blaming Marawi's Muslim population for the attacks. But others on social media are rallying against those sentiments and pointing out that Muslims are among the victims of the fighting.

Image copyright Kuya Kim Kardashian/Twitter

A post that was widely circulated on both Twitter and Facebook came from Adam Anay, a young Filipino who has friends in Marawi. His Facebook status pleaded for people to stand with the Muslim community. He wrote: "These extremists are not Muslims. They're not Mindanaoans. They're not Filipinos. We condemn these violent acts." Anay told Trending that, although he is not a Muslim, he wanted to oppose the idea that all Muslims are terrorists.

But while there have been shared responses to terror in Marawi and Manchester, many Filipinos are concerned that the events in Marawi are being overshadowed by news from abroad. Dima told Trending that "some people are mad that a margin of the Filipino youth are concerned more with the Ariana Grande concert than [the security] of their own country."

Blog by Sam Bright

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