Two top Isis leaders were killed in the ongoing anti-terrorist operation in Philippines' Marawi city, defence secretary Delfin Lorenzana said on Monday (16 October). He also added that with these two deaths, the months' long Marawi siege could come to an end soon.
Philippines security forces had laid siege to the city on 23 May after President Rodrigo Duterte imposed martial law in the region to conduct the anti-terror operation against Isis-linked Abu Sayyaf group and Maute group.
One of those killed in the Monday operation was Isnilon Hapilon, the purported Isis "emir" for Southeast Asia and a leader of Abu Sayyaf militant group known for kidnappings and brutal killings of foreign nationals. The other militant leader killed was Omar Maute, one of the two brothers who led the Maute terrorist group in the country, Lorenzana told a news conference.
The minister explained that a female hostage who escaped the militants' captivity helped locate Hapilon and Maute in one of the buildings in the main battle area in Marawi city.
"We were supposed to go to Marawi today with the President but we were advised by ground commanders not to go because they will conduct the assault this morning," the defence minister was quoted by the Philippines Star as saying.
"They were able to get Isnilon Hapilon and Omar Maute. They were both killed. In fact, their faces are now splashed on the internet. They were also able to recover 17 hostages.
"We will announce the termination of hostilities in a couple of days," Lorenzana added, referring to the months' long siege. However, with regard to the lifting of the martial law, he said the situation will be assessed thoroughly before a decision was taken.
The Philippine government had offered a 10m Philippines peso bounty for Hapilon on top of the $5m reward offered by the US.
Meanwhile, Lorenzana has said that their troops are currently searching for Malaysian terrorist Mahmud Ahmad, who is believed to be a financier of the terrorist group. He is still on the run, the minister added.