Philippines: President Duterte says Marawi city is now militant-free
By Faith Magbanua, October 17, 2017 23:10 PM
The President of the Republic of the Philippines, Rodrigo Duterte, has finally declared that the city of Marawi is now "liberated" from militants, even as fighting continues to drive away militants from the city.
In a statement given by AFP Spokesperson Brigadier General Restituto Padilla on October 17, 2017, he said that the war in Marawi continues.
'It will continue until armed elements are dealt with. But terrorists no longer have complete control.'
The Philippine army said it was battling up to 30 militants which left in the city, who were holding about 20 hostages.
Marawi has been partly held by fighters linked to so-called Islamic State (IS) since an attack in May of 2017. Troops have been trying to root them out in a conflict that has killed more than 1,000 people - mostly militants.
On the other hand, President Duterte made his announcement while addressing the troops in Marawi City on Tuesday, saying: "Ladies and gentlemen, I hereby declare Marawi liberated from the terrorists."
Despite the fact fighting is still ongoing in the city, a military spokesperson has described the president's declaration as symbolic, but also as a signal to begin the preparations for the reconstruction of Marawi City, which has been greatly damaged by almost daily bombings.
President Duterte's announcement came a day after the army said they had killed top militants, Isnilon Hapilon and Omar Maute.
The two men led the Abu Sayyaf and Maute groups, which formed part of the insurgency in Marawi. Both groups have pledged allegiance to, or have links to, ISIS.
The Abu Sayyaf Group
More than 800 militants have been murdered in the fighting, which has also killed more than 150 government troops while nearly 50 civilians have died, and thousands more have fled the fighting.
According to observers, they say that the occupation of Marawi stoked terrors that militant Islamist ideology is more prevalent on the island of Mindanao than it had previously been imagined.
With a bounty of $5m, Isnilon Hapilom is also known as the leader of Abu Sayyaf. The group is notorious for kidnapping, piracy and for beheading hostages, including foreigners.
While divisions of the group aim to create an Islamic caliphate in southern Philippines, there are those who have pursued to achieve criminal activity.
Furthermore, Isnilon Hapilon pledged allegiance to IS in 2014 and IS later urged all Muslims in southeast Asia to unite under his leadership.
Hapilon, who is on the US list of "most wanted terrorists", was killed in Marawi along with another wanted militant, Omar Maute, the army said.
The reported deaths came amid an army push to end the siege after months of fighting between troops and militants.
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