Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte on Tuesday declared a southern city “liberated from terrorists” after a five-month battle against militants loyal to ISIS.
Duterte made the declaration in a rain-soaked speech to troops in Marawi where they have been fighting the militants in clashes that have claimed more than 1,000 lives and displaced 400,000 people.
“Ladies and gentlemen, I hereby declare Marawi liberated from the terrorists,” Duterte said, speaking moments just after explosions and gunfire were heard in the city.
Duterte’s announcement came just hours after the military said it was still hunting down 20 to 30 fighters in the battle zone, including Malaysian militant leader Mahmud Ahmad.
On Monday, the military claimed a major breakthrough when it announced the death of Isnilon Hapilon, said by Duterte and security analysts to be the leader of an IS bid to declare a Southeast Asian caliphate as they suffer battlefield defeats in Iraq and Syria.