Rodrigo Duterte declares Marawi liberated after five-month siege


Armed Forces of the Philippines Chief of Staff General Eduardo Año hailed the troops for neutralising Hapilon and Omar Maute, noting that "this day marks the triumph of good over evil".

President Rodrigo Duterte declared the liberation of Marawi on Tuesday following the deaths of the top two Islamist State-linked terrorist leaders who attacked the city.

"Ladies and gentlemen, I hereby declare Marawi City liberated from the terrorist influence".

Duterte arrived in Marawi to congratulate the Philippine security forces for wresting the city from IS-linked extremists.

Padilla said between 20 to 30 fighters, who he referred to as "stragglers", remain. "And among these are about six to eight foreigners, foreign terrorists to include the notorious foreign national, a Malaysian, by the name of Dr. Mahmud who was the financier of the Marawi siege", Padilla said. As many as 80 small buildings and homes will need to be swept for explosives.

Occasional bursts of gunfire and explosions sent clouds of smoke rising from the one-hectare (2.5-acre) area where soldiers said the remaining militants were hiding. "I anticipate discussions in Congress on the lifting of martial law", Zubiri said.

Philippine Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana told a radio interview that they are now conducting assessment whether to lift or continue imposing martial in the Mindanao region.

"But if everything is already okay, we will recommend to (Duterte) for the lifting of martial law", Ano told a radio interview.

He said the ordnance dropped by the military in Marawi also exceeded the number of those used in past conflicts in Zamboanga and elsewhere.

Abella, however, said it is not yet advisable for residents to return to the besieged city.

The military said Monday that Hapilon - who figured on the USA "most wanted terrorists" list - was killed in a dawn offensive alongside Omarkhayam Maute, one of two brothers who allied with Hapilon to plot the takeover of the city. Hapilon was the deputy leader of the Abu Sayyaf group, according to the nonprofit research group Counter Extremism Project (CEP), and was involved in the kidnapping of 20 tourists from a resort on a western Philippine island in 2001; one of the hostages, an American, was beheaded.

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Padilla said that none of the remaining Filipino members of the Maute terror group are in the caliber of Hapilon and Maute.

"We have nipped the budding terrorism (in the country), and stamped out the leaders of the Daesh-inspired terrorist group".

Richard Heydarian, a political analyst, said the success of the Philippine military can be partly attributed to assistance from US Special Forces, which provided intelligence as well as equipment during the fighting.

Evacuees chatted about the news and looked at Facebook posts showing pictures of the dead Hapilon and Maute.

"We ask everyone to be vigilant and to report to the authorities any suspicious activities in their respective communities", said Guerrero.

The bloody battle cost the lives of more than 1,000 people with many more civilians displaced in the fighting.

He said 854 militants have now been killed in the fighting, which broke out on May 23, along with 163 soldiers and policemen and 47 civilians. "The CBCP never made such a statement", Archbishop Socrates Villegas said in a text message to reporters. Thousands of evacuees are still housed in the centers.

According to the army, about 1,000 people have died in the fighting, majority militants.

A damaged building in seen in Sultan Omar Dianalan boulevard at Mapandi district in Marawi city, southern Philippines, on Sept 13, 2017. He has vowed to have the militants killed to the last man because of the deaths and destruction wrought by the violence in Marawi.

The government has estimated the rebuilding of the city might take about two to three years.

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