The Philippine Military’s Chief on Monday warned Islamic State-allied militants to surrender or die as troops make a final push to end a more-than-three-month conflict in besieged Marawi City.
The fight between government forces and the militants was concentrated in the centre of Marawi, 800 kilometres south of Manila, and picked up last week after soldiers retook control of key landmarks in the municipality.
“We are in the final phase, finishing touches that’s why fighting has been intense,’’ said General Eduardo Ano, the armed forces chief of staff. The enemy is repositioning. We will finish this soon.
“Either they surrender or they die there, so we can start the reconstruction of Marawi City,’’ he added.
At least two leaders of the siege of Marawi, Isnilon Hapilon and Omar Maute are still believed to be alive and in the main battle area, according to military intelligence reports.
A third leader, Abdullah Maute, was reported to have died in airstrikes in August, the reports added.
But Col. Edgard Arevalo, the military’s public affairs chief, stressed that until the military has physical evidence of Abdullah’s death, they could not be 100 per cent sure about the report.
“Unless we have his body or if he can no longer be recognised, we have a positive DNA test, then we cannot give a 100 per cent assurance,’’ he said.
The conflict began on May 23 when hundreds of militants attacked Marawi after government forces attempted to arrest Hapilon.
More than 800 people have died and more than half a million people have been displaced in the crisis. (NAN)
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