President Duterte has declared the liberation of Marawi City from Islamic State (IS) invaders.
The pronouncement was made in his address to government troop during his seventh visit in the war zone during the nearly five months of conflict. Colonel Romeo Brawner, deputy commander of the task force battling the militants, told reporters that Duterte’s declaration was symbolic because the military cannot really say that Marawi is 100 percent cleared. Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) spokesman Major Gen. Restituto Padilla Jr. said 30 IS stragglers remain in the area, including six to eight foreigners, among them the Malaysian financier of the Marawi siege. For his part, AFP chief of staff General Eduardo Ano later clarified that the fighting against continued, describing the clashes as mopping operations. Pro-IS gunmen occupied parts of Marawi on May 23 following a foiled attempt by security forces to arrest Hapilon. The military said Hapilon was killed in a dawn offensive alongside Omarkhayam Maute, one of two brothers who allied with Hapilon to plot the takeover of the city. The IS movement in Marawi is made up of different armed fundamental Muslim groups: the Maute Group, Abu Sayyaf, Ansar Khalifa Philippines and some elements of the Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters (BIFF).