Philippine military focused on hostage safety

The two foremost leaders of an ISIS-inspired coalition that invaded the southern Philippine city of Marawi have been killed after nearly five months of fighting, the county's secretary of defense confirmed Monday.

Security officials believe Hapilon's death is significant, considering he was the uniting factor in Marawi, and that the blow to the global terror network is also serious, especially since the he was named by Daesh as emir of Southeast Asia.

Filipino government troops on a truck manoeuvre at a deserted street as fighting between Islamist militants and government forces continues in Marawi City, Mindanao Island, southern Philippines, 02 June 2017.

Isnilon Hapilon's reported death came during a final push to end the almost five-month siege of Marawi, a battle that has claimed more than 1,000 lives and raised fears that IS was seeking to set up a regional base in the southern Philippines.

Meanwhile, Major General Restituto Padilla, the spokesman of the Armed Forces of the Philippies, said that despite Duterte's declaration of Marawi's "liberation", government forces would continue their mopping up operations until the remaining terrorist have been arrested or killed.

Four military and police officials have told The Associated Press that Isnilon Hapilon and Omarkhayam Maute were killed in a gunbattle and their bodies were found Monday. He said the fighting is nearing its end, but "We will take all the time we need so we can save whatever lives are still in the battle zone".

More than 300,000 Marawi residents have been displaced by the fighting, which authorities say has killed 824 rebels, 47 civilians and 162 troops.

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Philippine flags hung on Tuesday from pockmarked buildings and houses, their roofs either blasted away or riddled with gunshot holes.

Soldiers stood guard in front of some buildings and at intersections where battle debris has been shoveled to the side.

"Hapilon and Maute. The CBCP never made such a statement", Villegas added.

Lorenzana said rewards from other countries, especially from the United States, were forthcoming, and would be given to the people who provided information that led to the deaths of the two terrorists.

Abu Sayyaf can choose Hapilon's successor from its other factions in Sulu and Basilan, just like how they did after the deaths of their former leaders, Khadaffy Janjalani and Abu Sabaya, said Professor Julkipli Wadi.

"My brother told me that finally we can return home, but when?" What will we return to?

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