Pro-IS militants continue fierce fight in Philippines' Marawi

Government troops fight against Maute rebels in Philippines

Marawi, a mosque-studded center of Islamic faith in the predominantly Roman Catholic Philippines, has been devastated by five months of military attacks against the Islamic State group-allied militants who overran the city on May 23.

Philippine security officials said the two final surviving leaders of the deadly siege, including a top Asian terror suspect, were killed in fierce fighting Monday.

Evacuees chatted about the news and looked at Facebook posts showing pictures of the dead Hapilon and Maute.

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.

Military officials believe that over a billion Philippin pesos ($19,495,080) in loot stolen by ISIS militants remains buried around the battle area.

Hapilon, Islamic State's anointed "emir" in Southeast Asia, took fighters from his Abu Sayyaf faction to join forces with the Maute clan and storm Marawi City in May.

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Military chief General Eduardo Ano said Mr Duterte's statement meant the threat from the militants, who had been fighting in Marawi since May 23, was substantially over.

"We have received a report from [Armed Forces of the Philippines] ground commanders in Marawi that the operation conducted by government forces to retake the last remaining Daesh-Maute stronghold in the city has resulted in the death of the last terrorist leaders Isnilon Hapilon and Omar Maute, and that their bodies have been recovered by our operating units", said Lorenzana. "We may announce the termination of hostilities in the couple of days". Defence chiefs last month said other Philippine militant leaders had been killed in the battle for Marawi.

Since then more than 1,000 people have been killed and 400,000 residents displaced.

Despite Mr Duterte's declaration, the military said about 30 militants holding an estimated 20 hostages still remain in Marawi and military operations continue against them. Hapilon was based in Basilan island in the strife-torn south but authorities said in January that he had moved to the Mautes' base in Lanao del Sur province, 300 kilometres (180 miles) east, to create an alliance and to establish an IS presence there.

A Philippine military spokesman says troops are being careful in the intense fighting with militants in Marawi city because of concerns for the safety of the 50 to 100 hostages still being held by the Islamic State group-linked militants.

"Women and children are now forced to fight together with the Maute-ISIS fighters".

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