DEFENSE Secretary Delfin Lorenzana announced on Monday the death of two key leaders of the Islamic State-linked Maute group in Marawi City.
The Philippine defense chief said on Monday that the top leaders of the pro-IS militant groups that laid siege to the southern Philippine city of Marawi have already been killed in action.
"We were supposed to go to Marawi with the President but we were prevailed upon by the commanders on the ground to postpone our trip because they are going to conduct the assault today", Lorenzana told reporters in a chance interview in Camp Aguinaldo, Quezon City.
With this, the Catholic prelate admitted that he is feel grateful with the development of the situation in the city.
At the press conference, aired live nationwide, Lorenzana, said Malaysian national Dr. Mahmud, Ahmad, a Universiti Malaya professor who joined the Islamic State and is believe to have been among those who planned the Marawi siege, is reportedly still hiding in one of the buildings there.
The bodies of Hapilon and Maute will be subjected to DNA tests, "because there are rewards coming from a foreign country" and rewards offered by the Philippine government as well. He was indicted in the District of Columbia for his alleged involvement in terrorist acts against U.S. nationals and other foreign nationals as an official of the Abu Sayyaf, which is listed as a foreign terrorist organization.
The military said it has rescued 1,750 civilians who were trapped in the city or held hostage by the militants since the fighting broke out. More than 350,000 people from Marawi and its nearby towns have been displaced by the fighting.
Twenty soldiers were wounded in the offensive, which illustrates the extent of the fighting, Colonel Brawner said.
After Hapilon called for backup, militants poured into the city by the hundreds, setting fire to buildings, taking hostages and entering into running street-battles with government forces.
Hapilon was thought to have issued an emergency call for reinforcements from members of the Maute group, which was headed by Omar and his brother Abdullah.
But Brawner said fighting continues in an area covering around two hectares.
Lorenzana also said that government troops were able to rescue 17 more hostages, leaving more than 20 hostages still in the hands of the terrorists. US -trained army and police commandos crawled toward militant positions overnight and launched an assault.
The violence forced over 350,000 residents to flee the city and the surrounding areas, and saw President Rodrigo Duterte declare martial law across the island shortly after.
Though a various disparate militants have operated in the region for years, said analysts, Hapilon's elevation to ISIS emir led to greater unity between the various organizations in the area.