Hapilon, Omar Maute killed in Marawi fighting-Lorenzana

"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. More than 1000 people, including over 800 militants, were killed in fighting since according to the Armed Forces of the Philippines.

The military, which killed two key militant leaders on Monday, said they hoped it was the final phase of defeating a dwindling band of fighters who had occupied Marawi for nearly five months.

The military said Monday Hapilon - on the USA "most wanted terrorists" list - was killed in a dawn offensive alongside Omarkhayam Maute, one of two brothers who with Hapilon plotted to take over the city.

Ano said Philippine ground forces launched an assault before dawn, sparking a four-hour gun battle that lead to the two leaders' deaths.

Gunfire rang out sporadically and explosions thudded as Philippine soldiers fought Tuesday to gain control of the last pocket of Marawi controlled by Islamic militants as President Rodrigo Duterte declared the southern city liberated from "terrorist influence".

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.

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The Philippine government on Monday confirmed an Associated Press report that two key figures behind the siege, Isnilon Hapilon, who is listed among the FBI's most-wanted terror suspects, and Omarkhayam Maute, were killed in a gunbattle.

The Philippine government had offered a 10m Philippines peso bounty for Hapilon on top of the $5m reward offered by the US.

"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.

Malaysian militant leader Mahmud Ahmad was still in Marawi, with authorities describing him as the "conduit" between IS and local militant groups.

Other members of the Maute clan meanwhile can sustain their alliance with the Abu Sayyaf, the professor added.

Islamic State (IS)-linked militants were putting up fierce resistance as government forces continued a bloody offensive to retake the southern Philippine city of Marawi, an army commander said on Sunday. "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".

  • Sonia Alvarado