The five-month long battle for Marawi City is finally over.
After over 1,000 deaths and the destruction of the southern Philippine city, the government has announced that they will begin a gradual pullout from Marawi.
“We now announce the termination of all combat operations in Marawi,” Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana told reporters on the sidelines of a regional security meeting in Clark, a northern Philippine city.
The remaining terrorists, who were no longer holding any hostages, were cornered into one building yesterday before being killed by the military. At least 42 bodies of suspected terrorists were recovered from the final battle site.
Last Tuesday, President Rodrigo Duterte had already declared Marawi “liberated” after Islamic State leaders Omar Maute and Isnilon were killed in a firefight with the military.
Lorenzana said there were no more militants, known locally as coming from the Maute group.
“Those are the last group of stragglers of Mautes and they were caught in one building and so there was a firefight so they were finished,” he said
“All terrorists, fighting troops. All hostages have been recovered.”
Hundreds of gunmen who had pledged allegiance to IS rampaged through Marawi, the Islamic capital of the mainly Catholic Philippines, on May 23, then took over parts of the city using civilians as human shields.
President Rodrigo Duterte and security analysts said the militants were trying to establish a Southeast Asian caliphate in Marawi.
U.S. Defense Secretary James Mattis on Monday praised the Philippines for its success in Marawi.
“One of the first things I’m going to do when I get there is commend the Philippine military for liberating Marawi from the terrorists,” Mattis told reporters on board a flight to the Philippines to attend the security meeting in Clark.
“It was a very tough fight as you know in southern Mindanao. And I think the Philippine military sends a very strong message to the terrorists.”
Hapilon and Maute, along with hundreds of other militants, had been able to evade near daily bombing raids, according to the military.
Many of the country’s Muslim minority call Marawi home.
The nation’s biggest Muslim rebel group, the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF), is in talks with the government to end a rebellion that began in the 1970s and has claimed more than 120,00 lives.
The military campaign to evict the militants claimed more than 1,000 lives and displaced over 400,000 residents.
President Rodrigo Duterte said last week that he has ordered the creation of a task force that will deal with the rehabilitation of Marawi with at least a PHP20-billion (US$390 million) budget.