Fighting continues in Marawi despite Philippine president declaring liberation from IS militants


A teenager who fought alongside Islamic-state linked militants in Marawi City, speaks to Reuters during an interview in the southern Philippines, on July 11, 2017 after fleeing the fighting.

The two led a series of attacks in Marawi after government troops tried but failed to serve an arrest warrant against Hapilon in May.

Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) spokesman Restituto Padilla said on Tuesday that there are still about 30 "armed elements or strugglers" in Marawi. "And among these are about six to eight foreigners, foreign terrorists to include the notorious foreign national, a Malaysian, by the name of Dr. Mahmud who was the financier of the Marawi siege", Padilla said.

Padilla added that there are still about 60 to 80 extremist-occupied buildings that need to be cleared.

"The declaration of PRRD marks the beginning of the recovery, reconstruction and rehabilitation of Marawi", Presidential Spokesperson Ernesto Abella said in a statement.

The president declared martial law in the whole of Mindanao to neutralize the local terror group and contain violence in the region. President Rodrigo Duterte declared martial law in the south, scene of decades- old Muslim separatist uprising, to deal with the siege, the worst crisis he has faced since rising to power in June past year.

The southern Philippine island of Mindanao is home to several Muslim militant groups. "We will defer to their assessment and await their recommendation", she added.

Both Abu Sayyaf and Maute had declared allegiance to the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL, also known as ISIS), later joining forces to rampage through the university town in Mindanao. Our ground commanders will determine if it is safe for residents to return to the city as there may still be traps and unexploded ordnance in some areas.

In a speech in Camarines Sur, Duterte, however, admitted that there were still challenges confronted by the government due to resistance offered by some Islamist fighters who were still hiding in Marawi City.

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He said the neutralisation of Hapilon and Omar, the last of the dreaded Maute brothers, "was the last straw that has broken the camel's back".

"We have nipped the budding terrorism (in the country), and stamped out the leaders of the Daesh-inspired terrorist group. Do we have jobs?" she said.

The AFP called on Tuesday for a heightened security and increased vigilance in the wake of the killings of top pro-IS leaders.

"We ask everyone to be vigilant and to report to the authorities any suspicious activities in their respective communities", said Guerrero. On the part of the government, 162 soldiers were killed and 1,000 others were wounded in action.

Año said the bodies of Hapilon and Omar Maute "were recovered and physically, independently and positively identified by various individuals including former Maute hostages and surrenderers".

During the fighting, about 1,700 hostages were rescued, including 20 on Monday, he added.

Months of airstrikes and heavy fighting have severely damaged numerous city's infrastructure, including buildings and houses. Large swaths of the city, especially in the central business district, are a pock-marked moonscape of heavily damaged buildings, shops and houses.

The senator also expressed hope that the firefighting will soon end so the government can immediately lift Martial Law and finally focus on rebuilding and developing Marawi City.