IS Southeast Asia chief killed in Philippines

Pro-IS militants continue fierce fight in Philippines' Marawi

Isnilon Hapilon's reported death came during a final push to end the almost five-month siege of Marawi, a battle that has claimed more than 1,000 lives and raised fears that IS was seeking to set up a regional base in the southern Philippines. "They had these built by the hostages so they really planned to get out", Ano said.

Duterte made his third return visit to Marawi a day after the military confirmed the killing of Isnilon Hapilon, the Abu Sayyaf leader, and Omarkhayyam Maute when elite Scout Ranger troops stormed a building where they were holed up early on Monday morning. One of the terror leaders was on the FBI's list of most wanted terrorists.

He said the battle for Marawi could be over imminently, adding that 17 hostages were rescued this morning.

Security officials believe Hapilon's death is significant, considering he was the uniting factor in Marawi, and that the blow to the worldwide terror network is also serious, especially since the he was named by Daesh as emir of Southeast Asia.

Philippine military chief of staff General Eduardo Ano showed reporters a photo of what he said was Hapilon's bloodied face.

A nighttime military assault killed Hapilon inside Marawi's shrinking battle zone, together with the Omar Maute, last of the Maute brothers leading the siege, authorities said Monday.




The two men offered millions of pesos in a desperate bid to flee the besieged area after the government refused to open negotiations with the group.

"As days passed, they (terrorists) each took [their] own [share of the loot] and hid the money so that when they can escape, they can come back for it", Año said.

The siege, which lasted nearly five months destroyed much of the city's once popular center and left more than 400,000 people from Marawi and elsewhere living in temporary shelters.

"But it could be him, he could be the one tasked to lead their group in the whole of Asia", he said. The restive south of the mainly Catholic Philippines is home to a decades-old Muslim separatist insurgency and to extremist gangs that have declared allegiance to IS including the Abu Sayyaf and Maute groups.

Terrorism expert Ahmad Kumar Ramakrishna from Singapore's S. Rajaratnam School of International Studies said if Ahmad survived he would likely take over the leadership of IS-linked fighters in the southern Philippines. He said "the Maute-IS have established very strong defensive positions", adding that the IS fighters were hiding in dugouts and basements of occupied buildings.

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