Philippine gov't forces rescue all hostages held by pro-IS militants in Marawi

Source: Xinhua| 2017-10-22 16:50:26|Editor: ying
Video PlayerClose

MANILA, Oct. 22 (Xinhua) -- Philippine government forces have rescued all hostages held by the pro-Islamic States (IS) militants that took over the southern city of Marawi for five months, a military commander said on Sunday.

"We believe that there are no more remaining hostages," Col. Romeo Brawner told a news conference in Marawi. "The latest number of hostages that we rescued was 20. That is the last (batch of hostages) that we rescue."

As of Sunday noon, Brawner said fighting between government forces and up to 30 militants continues.

"Today there is still firefight going on inside the main battle area. But the Maute-ISIS is now occupying only one building. So, there's just one building left for the government forces to clear," Brawner said.

He said among the fighters holed out in the militant-occupied building are women. "It's a well-fortified (two-level building) by the lake and the enemies are hiding in the basement," he said.

"They are apparently the wives of the fighters. We believe that they really chose to stay with their husbands. It looks like they have chosen to fight it out together with their husbands," he said.

On Tuesday, the military announced soldiers killed Isnilon Hapilon and Omarkhayam Maute, the remaining militant leaders. After their death, Brawner said there is now "leadership vacuum" in the ranks of the extremists.

He said the conflict has so far killed 919 extremists and 165 soldiers and policemen. A total of 864 firearms have been recovered from the militants, he added.

The war has also claimed the lives of nearly 100 civilians and displaced thousands who fled when the war broke out on May 23.

Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte said on Friday that he will not lift the martial law in Mindanao even after the government forces recaptured Marawi, saying military rule is needed to crush all terrorist groups in that region.

Duterte imposed martial law on the entire Mindanao region hours after the Maute and Abu Sayyaf militants took over Marawi on May 23.

On Tuesday, Duterte said troops have liberated the ruined city from the IS-linked militants. But firefight continues as troops flush out the remaining rebels and rescue the remaining hostages.