Six months into a protracted battle with militants besieged in the southern city of Marawi, the Philippine military appears to be on the cusp of victory.
In a speech to soldiers in the city on Tuesday, President Rodrigo Duterte was decisive: “Ladies and gentlemen, I hereby declare Marawi City liberated from the terrorist influence.”
There are still clashes in Marawi, located on the southern island of Mindanao. As reporter Michael Sullivan told NPR’s Newscast unit, “Duterte was in Marawi for the announcement, which seemed a bit premature given that gunfire and explosions could be heard as soldiers attempted to clear what the government claims is the last pocket of resistance in the city, less than a mile away from where Duterte delivered his speech.”
The president spoke alongside photos of two militant leaders, Isnilon Hapilon and Omarkhayam Maute, who the government says were killed in battle on Monday.
The fighting has raged since May, NPR’s Colin Dwyer reported:
“Marawi, a predominantly Muslim city in a majority-Christian country, has been roiled by bloodshed since jihadi fighters seized parts of the urban center. … An alliance of ISIS-aligned militant groups, including the Abu Sayyaf and Maute groups, seized the opportunity presented by a botched attempt to capture extremist leader Isnilon Hapilon on May 23, occupying positions throughout the city.”
The military says the fighting has killed more than a thousand people, most of them militants, Sullivan reported. He added: “Hundreds of thousands of civilians have fled the city, much of which is now in ruins.”
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SOURCE: NPR, Merrit Kennedy