The Philippine Defense Minister confirms the death of the two top leaders of the group that’s battled government troops in the city of Marawi for almost five months. One of the dead, is on the FBI’s most wanted terrorists list, with a $5 million reward for his death or capture. We have more from Neal Conan in today’s Pacific News Minute.
Philippine Army troops continue to squeeze the last few pockets of resistance in the southern city of Marawi and a rebel force once estimated at 800 is now reported down to about 40. One of the problems holding up the troops, is the presence of hostages.
On Saturday, a raid designed to free a group of hostages ran into unexpectedly heavy fire. A battalion commander and more than 20 other soldiers were wounded. But, according to Army Colonel Romeo Brawner, the one hostage they managed to extract provided crucial information. She identified the location of Isnilon Hapilon and Omar Khayam Maute. Philippine troops assaulted the building on Monday, and the leaders of the insurrection were reported killed in a gun battle.
Hapilon was one of the leaders of Abu Sayeef, an Islamic separatist group best known for kidnapping and piracy. Several Americans are among the victims and one was beheaded when ransom wasn’t paid. In 2014, Isnilon Hapilon declared his allegiance to the Islamic State. As the bloody siege apparently draws toward an end, Marawi’s 200,000 residents may be able to return from squalid camps, but much of the city has been destroyed.
The siege exposed the weakness of the Philippine Army.
Last week, President Rodrigo Duterte said that Russia was donating 5,000 Kalashnikov assault rifles. And earlier this month, China donated 3,000 rifles, three million rounds of ammunition and 90 sniper scopes.