SOUTHEAST Asia’s Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) chief Isnilon Hapilon and Maute Group leader Omar Maute, together with five other terrorists, were killed while 17 civilians were rescued by government troops who assaulted a building inside the main battle area yesterday morning in Marawi City.
This was confirmed yesterday by Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana.
“Yes I confirm the killing of Hapilon at saka Omar Maute this morning,” Lorenzana said in a press briefing in Camp Aguinaldo.
Lorenzana said the troops attacked the Maute position yesterday morning after a female hostage who managed to escape from the hands of the enemy told authorities that the two terrorist leaders were hiding in a building in the main battle area.
“She was able to confim the presence of Isnilon and Maute in that particular building that we assaulted this morning,” Lorenzana said.
“Following their operational plan they were able to get Isnilon Hapilon and Omar Maute, they were both killed, in fact their faces have already been splashed on the internet and in the websites, plus they were able to recover 17 hostages,” Lorenzana added.
AFP Chief of Staff General Eduardo Año said the operation started at around 2 a.m. on Monday and lasted at around 6 a.m.
With the deaths of Hapilon and Maute, Lorenzana said they are expecting the crisis in Marawi to end soon.
“Ang implication nito ay malapit nang matapos yung Marawi incident natin, and we may announce the termination of hostilities in a couple of days,” he said.
Ano likewise said the killing of two leaders of the ISIS-Maute group will mean that the end of the crisis is near.
Maute financier hunted
The Defense chief said government troops are still running after alleged Maute financier Dr. Mahmoud Ahmad.
“According to some reports, he is still hiding in one of the buildings there and that’s what they are trying to do now,” he said.
He said the killing of the Maute leaders means hostilities in Marawi are soon to end soon but not the lifting of martial law in Mindanao.
“Ang implication nito ay malapit nang matapos yung Marawi incident natin and we may announce the termination of hostilities in a couple of days,” he said.
“We are not talking about lifting martial law yet, tingnan pa natin. We are only looking in the immediate aftermath of the killing of these two leaders,” he added.
Lorenzana said they need to assess the situation in Mindanao first before recommending to the President the lifting of martial law in the region, which has been in place since May 23.
Hapilon is the supposed emir of the Islamic State (ISIS) in Southeast Asia. He left his lair in Basilan last year to join the Maute Group in Butig, Lanao del Sur, where Omar Maute and his brother Abdullah led an occupation of Butig’s town center.
Hapilon and the Mautes pledged allegiance to ISIS.
“… we will assess if there is a need to recommend to the President the lifting of martial law,” he said.
He expressed hope the deaths of the two leaders will help finish ISIS in Southeast Asia.
“That will help eradicate them once and for all. Meron pa silang mga cells diyan, we believe that they still have cells in Basilan, Sulu, also in Central Mindanao but we will also get them,” he said.
He said there were other Maute members killed aside from Hapilon and Maute during the operations but no details were provided yet.
“Meron(g ibang namatay) pero hindi na nila sinabi kung sinu sino at saka number, they just concentrated on these two high value targets,” he said.
Lorenzana further said the troops are ready if ever the other members of Maute group carry out retaliatory attacks.
“We are prepared, our troops are prepared. Alam naman natin that it is the modus operandi of the enemy to make, to create diversion dito, diversion diyan, retaliation din, so our troops are prepared,” he said.
As of press time, Lorenzana said there are still terrorists in the area and the troops are still looking for another personality identified as Dr. Mahmoud a Malaysian national who was reportedly hiding in one of the buildings in the main battle area.
With the rescue of 17 more civilian hostages, Lorenzana said more than 20 hostages are still in the hands of the gunmen.
The Defense Secretary said the death of Hapilon and Maute is a big help in the government’s effort to eradicate the terrorist group.
Lorenzana also believed that the terrorist group still has cells in Basilan, Sulu and other parts of Mindanao but government forces are doing their best to get them.