Philippines declares end to 5-month ISIS siege in Marawi

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The Philippines has declared an end to combat operations in the southern city of Marawi, which was seized by supporters of the Islamic State group (ISIS) earlier this year. More than 1,100 people were killed in the fighting.

Philippine Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana said on Monday that combat operations were coming to an end after the defeat of a group of militants who were hiding inside a building. The bodies of 42 militants, including 5 foreign fighters and 2 women, were found inside the building.

The announcement came just a week after two militant leaders – Isnilon Hapilon and Omar Maute – were killed when security forces raided a building in Marawi City, which left the militants without a leader. Authorities were told of their hiding place after a female hostage managed to escape.

The remaining militants made their last stand inside a fortified, two-story building in Marawi City, where dozens of fighters and some of their wives were ready to fight to their death. Security forces killed the remaining militants on Monday, after which the siege was declared over.

“Marawi is fully liberated,” said Zia Alonto Adiong, a spokesman for the Marawi Crisis Committee. He said the victory meant that the government can now focus on the “rehabilitation and recovery” of the city, which is located about 810 kilometers (505 miles) southeast of Manila.

The conflict began on May 23 when hundreds of militants seized Marawi and took scores of civilians hostage in an attempt to establish a “wilayat,” or province, for the Islamic State group (ISIS). It prompted President Rodrigo Duterte to declare martial law on the island of Mindanao.

Lorenzana said it was not yet known whether Duterte will now move to end martial law on the island. “We will determine the security situation in the whole of Mindanao and we will make a recommendation to the President soon,” he said, as quoted by the country’s state-run news agency.

More than 1,100 people were killed in the conflict, including 920 militants, 160 soldiers and police officers, and 47 civilians. More than 1,770 hostages were rescued and the fighting prompted about 230,000 people to flee their homes.

Lorenzana thanked countries such as China, the United States, and Australia for their help during the conflict. “We hope that this operational achievement in Marawi in the Philippines will be the catalyst that shall bring to the fore future cooperations and partnerships,” he said.

The Islamic State group has suffered major losses over the past year. The group lost the Syrian city of Raqqa, which served as the group’s de-facto capital, just last week and Mosul, the second-largest city in Iraq, in July.

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