Rodrigo Duterte declares Marawi liberated after five-month siege

Islamic State

President Rodrigo Duterte declared Marawi liberated on Tuesday, although the military said 20-30 rebels were holding about 20 hostages and still fighting it out. His announcement drew cheers from troops present during his speech.

"I hereby declare Marawi city liberated from the terrorist influence".

Duterte also vowed that no troop would be left behind.

The worst fighting occurred around the city of Marawi, home to about 200,000.

Their remains will be subjected to DNA testing to authenticate they are the same wanted persons, defence officials said. "There are still skirmishes".

The military, which killed two key militant leaders on Monday, hopes it is the final phase of defeating a dwindling band of fighters who have occupied Marawi for five months.

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

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

Security officials have considered Mahmud as the local extremists' financier and recruiter who helped them to have a direct link with the IS group and laid siege to Marawi.

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The surprise occupation of the city and the involvement of foreign fighters set off alarms in Southeast Asia and the West. Analysts said parts of the southern Philippines were at risk of becoming a new base for IS as it lost territory to global forces in Iraq and Syria.

Soldiers stood guard in front of some buildings and at intersections where battle debris had been shoveled to the side.

With the deaths of Abu Sayyaf leader Isnilon Hapilon and Maute group leader Omar Maute, and the end of the war in Marawi in sight, many Senators are now looking towards rehabilitation of the war torn city.

Lt. Gen. Rey Leonardo Guerrero, the commander of the AFP's Eastern Mindanao Command, directed all military units to raise their alert level and "prevent possible reprisal from the so-called "Maute-ISIS sympathetic groups after the deaths of Hapilon and Maute".

"We will have to spend and rehabilitate because whether we like it or not, they are our brothers and sisters, those especially who did not take part in any of those covert, open rebellion".

Asked by reporters if the president's declaration was symbolic, Col. Brawner said: "Yes, because we can not really say that the area is 100 per cent cleared because even when they declared the end of World War II, there were still stragglers".

In the squalor of evacuation centers, some women have given birth, personal milestones that mark a tragic time.

"Historically, the battle of Marawi is now the longest since World War - since the end of World War II in a single area... in the Philippines", Padilla said during a Palace press briefing.

Now a bouncy 4-month-old, the baby giggles in a cloth hammock as Mama keeps watch, struggling to smile as she speaks of the many uncertainties her family faces even if the crisis in her city finally ends.


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