(AhlulBayt News Agency) - The Philippines city of Marawi has been liberated from ISIS-affiliated militants following a five-month standoff, President Rodrigo Duterte announced Tuesday.
“I hereby declare Marawi liberated from the terrorists,” Duterte said on Tuesday in a speech to army soldiers in Marawi.
The Philippine leader further said now that the fight is over, it is time to heal the wounded and rebuild the city of 200,000 people on the island of Mindanao.
An army spokesman, however, said despite Duterte’s announcement, soldiers are still engaged in skirmishes with up to 30 militants holed up in the city.
The Associated Press cited military chief General Eduardo Ano that Duterte's statement means the threat from the militants, who've been fighting in Marawi since May 23, is substantially over.
“They’re leaderless and they have no more organization,” he said. “There are still skirmishes.”
Military spokesman Restituto Padilla also told news channel ANC that “the declaration of the president hopefully gives way for the entry and start of rehabilitation, reconstruction and rebuilding of Marawi from the ashes.”
On Monday, the Philippine army said it had killed two top ISIS terrorist commanders, Isnilon Hapilon and Omarkhayam Maute, during a raid in the embattled city.
Hundreds of armed extremists launched an offensive in Marawi on May 23 and occupied the city.
The Philippine military says Hapilon, the top ISIS leader in Southeast Asia, joined forces with the Maute militant group to plan the rampage.
Duterte then deployed thousands of troops and imposed martial law across the southern third of the country in response to the crisis.
Filipino troops have been fighting the militants in Marawi for five months. The conflict has left more than 1,000 people dead and displaced 400,000 others.