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Phillippines declares Marawi City free from militants

Phillippines declares Marawi City free from militants
Smoke comes from a burning building as government troops continue their assault against insurgents from the Maute group, who have taken over large parts of Marawi city, Philippines June 15, 2017. REUTERS/Romeo Ranoco

Zamboanga City [Phillippines]: Phillippines on Monday declared southern Mindanao island’s Marawi City free from militants, bringing an end to the five months of combat between government forces and Daesh-linked Abu Sayyaf and Maute groups.

“There are no more militants in Marawi. We now announce the termination of all combat operations in Marawi,” Defence Secretary Delfin Lorenzana said at a news conference on the sidelines of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) defense ministers’ meeting in northern Pampanga Province.

The conflict between military and Daesh-linked groups broke out in the area on May 23, 2017.

Last week, President Rodrigo Duterte announced the “liberation” of Marawi, following the death of key militant leaders Isnilon Hapilon and Omar Maute.

This, however, has raised questions regarding who could be the new leader of the militant groups.

According to Joint Task Force Ranao deputy commander Col. Romeo Brawner, Malaysian terrorist Amin Bacu, who might still be alive, could have taken over as their leader.

However, there has been no confirmation from Brawner.

Brawner informed that 20 people, including some alleged wives of militants, were rescued from a building in the besieged Marawi City, where militants had been holed up.

Earlier, the deputy commander had said bodies of suspected militants were yet to be recovered from the last building held by the group, where at least 30 militants were suspected to have taken cover.

Military spokesman Major General Restituto Padilla and Presidential spokesman Ernesto Abella have observed that martial law in the city needs to continue in Mindanao Island until end of the year, in order to fully eliminate militants.

“There are remnants including networks supporting the Maute cause within Mindanao. The president is duty-bound not to compromise public safety,” Abella said.

The terror groups’ attack following arrest of Hapilon caused President Duterte to impose martian law in Mindanao.

The siege of the city has resulted in around 1,132 deaths, include that of terrorists, government troops as well as civilians. (ANI)