Malacañang called on remaining Islamic State-inspired Maute terrorists to halt further resistance in the battleground in war-torn Marawi City following the death of its two leaders.
Presidential Spokesperson Ernesto Abella on Tuesday urged all fighters to return to the “road of peace.”
“With terrorist leaders gone, we call on all fighters to cease further resistance and violence and return to the road of peace,” Abella said during the Mindanao Hour press briefing.
“This is also the call of our Muslim leaders, our imams, ARMM, MNLF, MILF chiefs, and the leaders of Muslim nations and this is the plea of your families, friends, and communities,” he added.
Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana confirmed on Monday that Abu Sayyaf leader Isnilon Hapilon and Omar Maute have been killed in an operation carried out by the government forces.
Lorenzana added that the deaths of the two leaders indicate the continuing conflict in Marawi City is near its end.
“The implication of this is that the end of the Marawi incident is near and we may announce the termination of hostilities in a couple of days,” Lorenzana said.
“We confirm that government forces killed Omar Maute and Isnilon Hapilon early morning today, Monday, the 16th of October in Marawi City,” Abella also verified on Monday.
President Rodrigo Duterte on Tuesday announced that Marawi City has been set free from the Maute group, after the deaths of its top two leaders.
“Ladies and gentlemen, I hereby declare Marawi City liberated from the terrorists’ influence that marks the beginning of rehabilitation,” Duterte said.
Abella also lauded the armed forces for their battle is near to victory.
He noted that hundreds of hostages were saved with no violations of rights and religion.
“This has laid a strong foundation for peace and recovery,” Abella said.
He added that government will intensify offensives across Mindanao to counter further attacks and to destroy ISIS cells.
Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) Spokesperson Maj. Gen. Restituto Padilla Jr. the killings of the two leaders are among the most positive developments.
Padilla, however, clarified that this doesn’t imply the end of hostilities, noting the remaining area occupied by about 20 to 30 armed elements and the existence of around 20 hostages.
“As we speak, our troops have remained in the battle area continuing to pursue the armed elements and seeking to rescue the remaining hostages in about two hectares of space that remains to be the battle area,” Padilla said.
“And before we can finally announce the end of the Marawi siege, there is a need to clear all these buildings of all unexploded ordnance as well as IEDs that may have been left by these retreating terrorists,” he added.
Padilla also stressed that there are still about 60 to 80 buildings that need to be cleared.