Philippines President Rodrigo Duterte finally made an unannounced visit to the besieged city of Marawi on Thursday, 20 July, after a few failed attempts earlier. Describing the tough-talking president's surprise trip to meet the fighting Filipino troops, a military spokesperson said it was like a "father visiting his children".

The conflict-torn city in the southern Philippines has been witnessing intense clashes between Filipino forces and Islamist militants after the government imposed a martial law to bring the Muslim-majority city under total control.

Duterte's visit was meant to boost the morale of the armed forces, who have been engaged the long-standing fight with an end that remains elusive. The firebrand leader previously promised that he would visit the conflict zone while the fighting is on and would not wait till the combat is over.

News about Duterte's visit emerged only after he left Marawi due to security concerns. He spent between two and three hours in Marawi speaking to troops and thanking them for their contribution, local reports say.

"It was an intimate visit. It was like a father visiting his children," Lieutenant Colonel Jo-Al Herrera, Joint Task Force Marawi spokesman, told reporters.

Pictures from Duterte's trip show him dressed in military camouflage uniform while speaking to soldiers. He also brought several gift items to the military personnel.

"We are grateful because our weather is very cooperative and our President is happy to see us. We are happy, our soldiers and police are happy with their visit as it proves our president is very firm, very dedicated, particularly in operations in Marawi City," Herrera was quoted as saying.

At least on two occasions, Duterte's planned visit to Marawi had to be cancelled either due to weather conditions or security reasons. So far, the conflict in Marawi has claimed more than 560 lives with a majority of the death toll coming from Islamist fighters.

Duterte on Obama
Duterte's visit to Muslim-majority Marawi comes as the conflict enters its 9th week Romeo Ranoco/Reuters