Manila, Oct 16 (IANS) Two key Islamic State (IS)-affiliated leaders engaged in a standoff with Philippines forces in the conflict-ridden Marawi city have been killed, a top official said on Monday.
According to Defence Secretary Delfin Lorenzana, the victims were identified as Isnilon Hapilon, who was declared the terror group’s emir for Southeast Asia, and Omar Maute, a leader of a militant group that pledged allegiance to the IS, reports CNN.
Their bodies have been recovered, the Defence Department said in a statement. Seventeen civilian hostages were also rescued.
The Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) had offered a reward of up to $5 million for information leading directly to Hapilon’s apprehension or conviction for a litany of alleged crimes, including hostage taking, murder, and terrorist activities.
The battle for Marawi began on May 23, when the military launched an operation targeting Hapilon on the island of Mindanao, where Marawi is located.
Hapilon was thought to have issued an emergency call for reinforcements from members of the Maute group, which was headed by Omar and his brother Abdullah.
Abdullah was rumoured to have been killed in early September, but the military is yet to confirm his death, CNN reported.
Omar’s death had been reported multiple times in the past, though never confirmed.
The violence forced over 350,000 residents to flee the city and the surrounding areas, and saw President Rodrigo Duterte declare martial law across the island shortly after.
The Philippines Congress granted Duterte’s request in July to extend the emergency measure until the end of the year.
According to the Philippines government, at least 1,066 people including 47 civilians have been killed and over 1,700 soldiers and policemen were injured.