Saturday, 18 November, 2017

Bloody end for Hapilon, Maute

Credit:Stock Credit:Stock
Sammy Stanley | 17 October, 2017, 00:30

"They were both killed", Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana told reporters.

The last two surviving leaders of a deadly siege in the southern Philippines, including a top Asian terror suspect, were killed Monday in a push by thousands of troops to retake the last pocket of Marawi city still held by pro-Islamic State militants, top security officials said.

DNA tests will be carried out on the two bodies because of the reward offer from the USA and Philippine governments, he added.

Around 40 militants remain in the besieged area, including warlords like Isnilon Hapilon and Omarkhayam Maute, whose group has pledged allegiance to Islamic State (IS, formerly ISIS/ISIL).

"We will announce the termination of hostilities once the government forces have ensured that there are no more terrorists-stragglers in the city and we have cleared all structures of improvised explosive devices and other traps", Lorenzana said. "We may announce the termination of hostilities in the couple of days".

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. Because yesterday (Sunday), they were able to get a testimony from a hostage who was able to escape and she, kasi babae sya (she is a woman), was able to confirm the presence of Isnilon and Maute in that particular building.

"The only way (ISIS) could do this again is if people in these areas do nothing when they see some foreign-looking people with firearms and explosives, which happened in Marawi", Lorenzana said.

"We were supposed to go to Marawi today with the President but we were advised by ground commanders not to go because they will conduct the assault this morning", the defence minister was quoted by the Philippines Star as saying.

The Maute and Abu Sayyaf militants laid siege to the Philippine Islamic city on May 23.

Local assemblyman Zia Alonto Adiong said that with the death of two militant leaders involved in the siege, the eagerness of the more than 390,000 displaced residents to return home is mounting.

The military said at least 47 civilians have been killed by the terrorists.

The militants have also taken several hostages and used them as shield or fighters during the more than four-month fighting, the military claimed.

Lorenzana said the bodies of the two terrorist leaders would be subject to DNA test, noting that these two have bounties on their heads from foreign countries.

Lorenzana said martial law will not be lifted yet.

In May, Duterte declared martial law on the island of Mindanao for a 60-day period, which was later extended until the end of the year, as the battle against IS-affiliated militants intensified.

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