Philippines Defence Secretary Delfin Lorenzana on Monday (23 October) announced that the months' long battle with Islamist militants in Marawi city finally ended with the elimination of "the last group of stragglers" of jihadists.
The Marawi siege lasted nearly five months after President Rodrigo Duterte imposed martial law in Mindanao province and ordered a massive military operation in Marawi to eliminate Isis-linked terrorist groups Maute and Abu Sayyaf.
"There are no more militants in Marawi City," Lorenzana told reporters in Clark, Pampanga province, where he arrived for a regional conference of defence ministers. He added that 42 bodies of the last group of militant stragglers were recovered from a building in Marawi.
The bodies included two Isis wives, according to Reuters. The group was holed up in the building in the heart of Marawi and refused to surrender, the news agency added.
"Those are the last group of stragglers of Mautes and they were caught in one building so there was a firefight, so they were finished," the defence minister reportedly said of the Filipino forces' last stand.
He further said that by defeating the militant groups in Marawi who made "the most serious attempt to export violent extremism and radicalism in the Philippines and in the region, we have contributed to preventing its spread in Asia".
Meanwhile, Colonel Romeo Brawner, deputy commander of Task Force Ranao, has said that the end of military combat operations in Marawi does not mean "we are terminating the offensive attack of the Maute-Isis". He added that their soldiers would continue to attack the remainder of militants if there are any.
Brawner also said that the five months of operation resulted in the death of 920 militants and they have recovered 864 firearms. Nearly 1,780 civilians had been rescued from militant-held areas and 165 had been killed, he added, according to the Philippines Star.
The Armed Forces of the Philippines will still conduct clearing operations inside the last Maute-held building to look for more bodies and weapons, an official reportedly said.
Lorenzana thanked the US, Australia, Singapore and China for providing technical support and weaponry for the operation.