Philippines President Rodrigo Duterte has announced that the war-torn Marawi city is now free of Islamists after a bloody siege, which lasted for nearly five months. He announced the Marawi's liberation when he visited the place on Tuesday, 17 October – his seventh visit since violence broke out.
By the end of May 2017, Duterte clamped martial law in the Mindanao region after the Islamist Maute group launched an attack. Since then, the region has been gripped by conflict leaving more than 1,000 people dead and hundreds of thousands displaced.
"Ladies and gentlemen, I hereby declare Marawi City liberated from the terrorist influence that marks the beginning of the rehabilitation of the city," Duterte said.
The president was accompanied by the defence chief and head of the armed forces as well.
His announcement comes just a day after two extremist leaders Isnilon Hapilon and Omar Maute were killed during a military assault. While the former is purportedly Islamic State (Isis) "emir" for Southeast Asia and a leader of Abu Sayyaf militant group, the latter is one of the two key leaders of the Maute organisation.
"My dear soldiers, my problem now is the wounded who are many; others are disabled. I promise that you will not be left behind. I will give all of you position," said Duterte adding that the rehabilitation process will begin shortly.
The death toll from the fighting is expected to increase as security forces are likely to find more bodies when they clear the area.
The Filipino military has been fighting a home-grown military group, Maute, and a faction of Abu Sayyaf, which has pledged allegiance to the Isis. The Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) said counter-terror operations in Marawi city will continue but there is no area in the region which is fully controlled by extremists.
"It will continue until armed elements are dealt with. But terrorists no longer have complete control. There are still a few more that are left, and a few more hostages that are still in the area that remains to be a battle area. The declaration of the President hopefully gives way to the entry and start of rehabilitation, reconstruction, and rebuilding of Marawi from the ashes," said AFP spokesperson General Restituto Padilla.