23 September 2017

News Story: Esperon - Maute fighters confined to area near Lake Lanao

Philippines President Rodrigo Duterte
By Audrey Morallo

MANILA, Philippines — President Rodrigo Duterte's most recent visit to Marawi City was an indication that the crisis may soon be over, his national security adviser said, as the main fighting area shrinks further to areas near Lake Lanao.

Duterte went to Marawi City on Thursday to visit troops who have been battling Islamist militants for 123 days now. The visit happened while massive protests were held in the capital over Duterte's alleged complicity in drug-related killings as well as for the commemoration of the 45th year since martial law was declared in the Philippines by ousted dictator Ferdinand Marcos.

Martial law was lifted in 1981. In May, Duterte declared martial law in Mindanao in response to the Marawi siege.

The military has also received information that Isnilon Hapilon, the appointed Southeast Asian emir of the so-called Islamic State, is still in the battle area and has not yet escaped as previously reported, according to Esperon.

Hapilon's Abu Sayyaf faction has merged with the Maute Group to stage the most significant terror event to face Southeast Asia in recent years which has killed hundreds of militants, civilians and security personnel and displaced hundreds of thousands of residents of the lakeside town.

According to Esperon, the recent gains by security forces, including the retaking of a mosque at the heart of the city used as headquarters by the militants' leaders and the rescue of hostages, and the travel by land of Duterte to Marawi were signs of the looming end of the most serious security problem to face the administration of the former Davao City mayor.

He said that he himself has traveled to Marawi by land on two occasions, one in July and another in September, although he was hesitant to allow the president's recent land travel there.

Read the full story at PhilStar