Published: Wed, October 18, 2017
Worldwide | By Sean Reid

IS Southeast Asia chief killed in Philippines

IS Southeast Asia chief killed in Philippines

"We are hoping that we will end this Marawi siege very soon", Colonel Romeo Brawner, deputy commander of the task force battling the militants, told reporters on Friday, as cited by AFP.

Brawner said: "We are trying our best (to meet the military's self-imposed October 15 target), our troops are fighting hard".

Rumors of Hapilon and Maute's death have periodically circulated in the past but on Monday Philippine Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana confirmed the latest reports to the Philippine Daily Inquirer.

It is only a matter of time before Abu Sayyaf proclaims a replacement for their slain leader, Isnilon Hapilon, a Muslim scholar said Tuesday.

Hapilon, who is listed as one of the FBI's most-wanted terror suspects, and Maute have always been in the crosshairs of the Philippine state.

He said the battle for Marawi could be over imminently, adding that 17 hostages were rescued this morning.

Fighting in Marawi City erupted between when government forces tried to arrest Hapilon who was declared as the "emir" of the terror group ISIS in Southeast Asia last May 23.

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Military chief Gen. Eduardo Ano told AP that Duterte's statement means the threat from the militants, who've been fighting in Marawi since May 23, is substantially over.

The two men offered millions of pesos in a desperate bid to flee the besieged area after the government refused to open negotiations with the group.

The siege, which lasted nearly five months destroyed much of the city's once popular center and left more than 400,000 people from Marawi and elsewhere living in temporary shelters.

"As days passed, they (terrorists) each took [their] own [share of the loot] and hid the money so that when they can escape, they can come back for it", Año said.

Another leader, Abdullah Maute, was reported by the army to have been killed in August, though no body was found to prove his death.

State troops, Padilla added, were also hunting down some 6 to 8 foreigners who have taken over the assault in Marawi, including Mahmud Ahmad, a Malaysian who allegedly helped put together the alliance between Maute and Abu Sayyaf fighters.

Despite Mr Duterte's declaration, the military said about 30 militants holding an estimated 20 hostages still remain in Marawi and military operations continue against them. "We just needed to get these two (leaders) to make sure the leadership, the centre of gravity falls, and elsewhere even the Maute-ISIS (fighters) in other areas would also crumble".

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