Philippines leader Duterte says terrorists ousted from Marawi City

By Allen Cone  |  Updated Oct. 17, 2017 at 12:12 PM
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Oct. 17 (UPI) -- Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte on Tuesday declared that Marawi City has been liberated from fighters of the Maute terrorist group.

Duterte, flanked by government troops, made the declaration five months after the Islamic militants stormed into the town.

"Ladies and gentlemen, I hereby declare Marawi City liberated from the terrorist influence that marks the beginning of the rehabilitation," the Filipino leader said.

One day earlier, the government reported the group's leaders -- Isnilon Hapilon and Omar Maute -- were killed in a gunfight.

However, about 30 militants didn't surrender and at least 20 civilians were hostages in a portion of the city, authorities said. Gunfire was also reported in the city Tuesday.

The area still is "very much contained and controlled" by the group, Philippines military spokesman Maj. Gen. Restituto Padilla said. He added that the Maute group was led by Mahmud bin Ahmad, a Malaysian terrorist who was a close associate of Isnilon Hapilon.

Col. Romeo Brawner, a regional army spokesman, said a joint task force will clear the entire city of the Maute group's bombs and unexploded devices, and free any captives. More than 200,000 residents were staying in refugee camps,

"Please be patient," Brawner said. "We will have to clear the area before you are allowed to return."

After an attack by Maute group in May, Duterte declared martial law in Mindanao Province. Padilla said martial law would continue.

"There is a greater threat here that needs to be addressed," he said. "The need for the maintenance of martial law in some parts is really important because of the network, the existence of the network of all these terrorist groups."

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