Marawi: Rodrigo Duterte declares Philippines city liberated of Islamic State influence

Marawi: Rodrigo Duterte declares Philippines city liberated of Islamic State influence

Marawi: Rodrigo Duterte declares Philippines city liberated of Islamic State influence

Updated 18 October 2017, 0:15 AEDT

Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte declares the southern city of Marawi "liberated" from pro-Islamic State militants, despite a military spokesman saying 20 to 30 rebels were still fighting it out and were holding about 20 hostages.

Philippines President Rodrigo Duterte has declared the southern city of Marawi liberated from pro-Islamic State (IS) militants, although a military spokesman said 20-30 rebels were still fighting it out and were holding about 20 hostages.

Speaking to soldiers a day after the killing of two leaders of the rebel alliance, Mr Duterte said the fight was over and it was time to heal the wounded and rebuild the city of 200,000 people on the island of Mindanao.

"I hereby declare Marawi City liberated from terrorist influence [and] that marks the beginning of rehabilitation," Mr Duterte told soldiers in Marawi.

Isnilon Hapilon, IS's "emir" in South-East Asia, and Omarkhayam Maute, one of two "Khalifas" at the helm of the Dawla Islamiya militant alliance, were killed in a targeted operation on Monday and their bodies had been recovered and identified, authorities said.

The 148-day occupation by IS loyalists marked the country's biggest internal security crisis in years.

Experts say the government has for years underestimated the extent to which extremism has taken root in impoverished and underdeveloped Muslim areas of the Catholic-majority Philippines.

Military spokesman Restituto Padilla said that although the fight was not completely over, the remaining rebels were "stragglers" who no longer posed a threat.

Who are the Maute?

  • The Maute are an armed Muslim group that's pledged allegiance to the Islamic State group
  • Hapilon was reportedly designated the leader of the alliance
  • The Maute has been blamed for a bomb attack that killed 15 people in southern Davao city, Duterte's hometown, last September
  • Last month, troops killed dozens of Maute militants and captured their jungle camp near Lanao del Sur's Piagapo town
  • Troops found homemade bombs, grenades, combat uniforms and passports of suspected Indonesian militants in the camp, the military said

"There is no way that they can get out anymore, there is no way for anyone to get in," Mr Padilla told news channel ANC.

"So choking them to death at this point will be very key for our troops to do since the area is very much contained and very much controlled."

Mr Padilla said Malaysian operative Mahmud Ahmad had been in Marawi City since the start of the fight and the military believed he was still there.

The authorities could not be completely certain, however, but saw him as no threat.

"Dr Mahmud is an academic, he's not a fighter," Mr Padilla said.

"We don't feel he is a problem."

Some security experts say Mr Mahmud, 39, a skilled recruiter and fundraiser who trained at an Al Qaeda camp in Afghanistan, is a candidate to replace Hapilon as IS's point-man in South-East Asia.


Reuters

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