Tuesday, 21 November, 2017

Death of top Maute leaders a 'decisive victory'

The insurgents have withstood a relentless US-backed bombing campaign and intense ground battles with troops that have left large parts of Marawi resembling devastated cities in war-torn Syria and Iraq Philippines Army says Islamists making 'last stand' in Marawi
Tracy Craig | 17 October, 2017, 00:27

Following the operational plan of the military troops postponing their supposed trip to Marawi, the defense chief said that troops were able to get the top terrorist leaders and rescue 17 more hostages inside the besieged city.

Maute and three of his siblings, who also have been reportedly killed in the Marawi clashes, belonged to an ISIS-aligned militant alliance in Southeast Asia which Hapilon headed. Lorenzana said teams were being sent to cities around Davao, Cotabato, Basilan and Zamboanga to meet with barangay leaders and residents, urging vigilance and briefing them on signs of suspicious activity to watch out for.

He said the death of these leaders means the fighting is nearly over and they will announce the termination of hostilities "in a couple of days". "We could announce the end of hostilities in a day or two ".

The bodies of Hapilon and Maute will be subjected to DNA tests, "because there are rewards coming from a foreign country" and rewards offered by the Philippine government as well.

Omar Maute and Hapilon, who is said to have been acknowledged by ISIS as the "emir" in the Philippines and Southeast Asia, and attempted to establish an ISIS caliphate in Marawi City with their invasion of the southern city which began on May 23.

The military previously estimated that they will liberate Marawi by Sunday.

A top Malaysian militant, Mahmud bin Ahmad, who uses the nom de guerre Abu Handzalah and is a close associate of Hapilon, has not been found and was among the remaining militants being hunted by troops, he said.

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Lorenzana also disclosed that President Rodrigo Duterte was scheduled to visit Marawi again on Monday but said they were "prevailed by the commanders on the ground to postpone the trip because they are going to conduct the assault this morning".

Trillanes, meanwhile, said that it is now time to go all out in the rebuilding of Marawi City "to start the healing process for all those affected by the war".

More than 1,000 people have been killed in the Marawi violence, including more than 800 militants.

"Yes, they are confirmed dead", Lorenzana said, adding DNA tests would be done on the remains of the two militant leaders to pave the way for the payment of huge US and Philippine bounties offered for the two.

Asked if martial law in Mindanao will be lifted now that the leaders are dead, Lorenzana replied: "we are not talking about lifting martial law yet".

It will take billions of pesos to rebuild the ruined city, according to Philippine Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana, who said that the extent of destruction is far greater than expected. President Rodrigo Duterte declared martial law in the south, scene of decades-old Muslim separatist uprising, to deal with the siege, the worst crisis he has faced since rising to power in June past year.

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