WARNING The following image contains graphic material. Click to reveal. KILLED. Abu Sayyaf subleader Isnilon Hapilon and Maute Group leader Omar Maute are killed October 16, 2017, as troops assault enemy position.
MANILA, Philippines (3rd UPDATE) – The top leaders of armed groups behind the prolonged war in Marawi City were killed in clashes with troops past midnight on Monday, October 16, Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana has confirmed.
"We have received a report from AFP ground commanders in Marawi that the operation conducted by government forces to retake the last remaining Daesh-Maute stronghold in the city has resulted in the death of the last terrorist leaders Isnilon Hapilon and Omar Maute, and that their bodies have been recovered by our operating units," Lorenzana said.
Earlier, a photo of a bloodied Hapilon, his face raised for the camera by a soldier, has been circulating among Marawi residents.
In the photo, he is wearing a black jacket over a black shirt, the color that the armed groups have worn since the beginning of the war.
Military operations are expected to continue to flush out remaining terrorists and clear the battle area of improvised explosive devices (IEDs).
Despite the death of the two terrorist leaders, Lorenzana said they are not yet lifting martial law in Mindanao, which has been in place since May 23.
Hapilon is the supposed emir of the Islamic State (ISIS) in Southeast Asia. He left his lair in Basilan last year to join the Maute Group in Butig, Lanao del Sur, where Omar Maute and his brother Abdullah led an occupation of Butig's town center.
Hapilon and the Mautes pledged allegiance to ISIS. (READ: What ISIS follower Isnilon Hapilon's transcripts reveal about his childhood)
The military forced them to the mountains of Butig but the armed groups brought the war in April 2017 to Piagapo, a town adjacent to Marawi City. (READ: Terror in Mindanao: The Mautes of Marawi)
A month later, on May 23, the military attempted to arrest Hapilon when he was spotted in a safe house in Basak Malutlut, a barangay not so far from the brigade headquarters there. The nearly 5-month war then began. – Rappler.com