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Philippine military focused on hostage safety

Philippine military focused on hostage safety

Philippine military focused on hostage safety

"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. "They're leaderless and they have no more organization", he said.

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.

President Rodrigo Duterte and security analysts say Hapilon has been a key figure in the jihadist outfit's drive to establish a Southeast Asian caliphate as they suffer battlefield defeats in Iraq and Syria. One of the terror leaders was on the FBI's list of most wanted terrorists.

Ano said troops are focused on rescuing the remaining hostages, which number around 22.

Isnilon Hapilon, the designated emir of ISIS in the Philippines, and Omar Maute, a figurehead of a local Islamist insurgent group, launched an attack on the Muslim majority city on May 23.

Military leaders had said last month that three leaders of the Islamic State-linked militants who besieged the southern city were killed in the months of fighting but the two still alive were leading a final stand.

The news comes after two terrorist leaders Isnilon Hapilon and Omar Maute were killed in an assault by Filipino troops. Hapilon also had a $5m USA bounty on his head for carrying out multiple ransom kidnappings and beheadings of United States citizens.

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"We will announce the termination of hostilities in a couple of days", Lorenzana added, referring to the months' long siege.

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

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.

The military's recent offensive led to the release of 17 hostages, according to Zia Alonto Adiong, spokesperson for the Marawi Crisis Management Committee.

Ano added with Hapilon and Maute dead, the equation may change.

"Women and children are now forced to fight together with the Maute-ISIS fighters". "Terrorism will take a new form in the post-Marawi period because these terrorist groups linked to ISIS continue to innovate and their actions are evolving", Rommel Banlaoi, chairman of the Philippine Institute for Peace, Violence and Terrorism Research, told AFP.

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