MANILA, Philippines - One of the world’s most wanted terrorists may have escaped a five-week battle with the Islamist Maute group militants in Marawi City, which began with a raid to capture him, the military said yesterday.
Abu Sayyaf leader Isnilon Hapilon, a veteran Filipino militant said to be the leader of the Islamic State (IS) group in Southeast Asia, has not been seen in the battle zone in Marawi City, according to Lt. Gen. Carlito Galvez, head of the military’s Western Mindanao Command.
An attempt by government troops to arrest Hapilon in Marawi on May 23 triggered a rampage by Islamist militants flying black IS flags and backed by some foreign fighters who seized parts of the mainly Muslim city.
President Duterte declared martial law in Marawi and the entire southern region of Mindanao, unleashing an offensive to crush what he said was an attempt by the jihadist group to establish a caliphate in the region.
“He (Hapilon) has not been seen in the area. We have some reports that he was already able to slip somewhere but as of now we are still confirming the reports,” Galvez said in an interview with dzBB radio.
Asked if Hapilon was on the run, Galvez said: “Yes, yes, because reportedly he suffered a lot of casualties. Majority of his group, more than half, were casualties.”
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