Duterte Declares Liberation of Marawi After Death of Militant Leaders
President Rodrigo Duterte finally declared liberation of the Muslim city of Marawi from the clutches of ISIS-affiliated terrorists after a five-month deadlock.
Duterte made the announcement during his visit in the war-torn city, asserting that it was time to heal the wounded and rebuild the city on the island of Mindanao.
Duterte said, “I hereby declare Marawi City liberated from the terrorist influence that marks the beginning of rehabilitation of Marawi.”
Though fighting continues and the manhunt for remaining terrorists is underway, General Eduardo Ano, Chief of Staff for the Arm Forces of the Philippines (AFP) is optimistic that war is about over.
“It’s a message that we want to tell the world, that the Maute-ISIS problem is over. They cannot be victorious anymore. It’s about to be over,” said Col. Romeo Brawner, Deputy Commander of the Joint Task Group Ranao, told CNN Philippines.
The war in Marawi that erupted in May this year left 800 hundred terrorists dead and displaced at least 350,000 residents. The military operation against the terrorists headed by the Philippine army resulted in the rescue of 1,700 hostages.
Terrorist Leaders Killed in Targeted Operation
The siege in Marawi started with the invasion by the terrorist group headed by the Maute brothers in the Muslim-dominated city of Marawi. But after 150 days of incessant fire targeting the terrorists, the key leaders of the Islamist Maute group were killed in an operation on Monday.
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. Hapilon and Maute died, along with seven other militants, while attempting to exit a building at street level during a four-hour firefight.
Their bodies were positively identified by a former hostage, the spokesman said.
“The Maute brothers were essentially the military brain and engine of the whole ISIS-affiliated movement in the Philippines,” said Richard Heydarian, a security analyst and author of the new book, “The Rise of Duterte: A Populist Revolt against Elite Democracy.”
The Siege in Marawi
The war in Marawi started when gunmen who were suspected members of two armed groups – Abu Sayyaf and Maute – which pledged allegiance to Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIS), launched a deadly attack in the city, 816km south of Manila.
The gunmen who were believed to number more than 100, burned a Catholic church, the city jail, and two schools. The militants also occupied the main streets carrying ISIS flags.
The hostilities led to the death of two soldiers and one police officer. Twelve government soldiers were wounded when a fierce firefight erupted between the two opposing forces.
To respond to the crisis and to contain the violence, the government deployed more forces to Marawi and triggered the declaration of martial law in the southern part of the Philippines.