MARAWI CITY -- Terrorists Isnilon Hapilon and Omar Maute, who were killed in an assault in Marawi City, will be buried according to Muslim rites, a military official said Monday, October 16.
“We will not announce where they will be buried so that their followers will not make them symbols of martyrdom,” General Eduardo Año, chief of staff of the Armed Forces of the Philippines, said in a press briefing.
The bodies of Hapilon and Maute were recovered Monday morning. They were killed in the military assault nearly five months after the war between the Maute terror group and government forces broke out in Marawi City. The authorities attempted to arrest Hapilon in the village of Basak Malutlut when they encountered the terrorists on May 23.
Hapilon, leader of Abu Sayyaf group, was purportedly delegated as Islamic State (IS) top honcho in Southeast Asia.
The military said Monday that aside from killing the two leaders of the IS-inspired extremists, government troops also rescued 20 hostages from the main battle area, including a five-year-old child and a two-month-old baby who was born while the mother was held captive by the terrorists.
Año said the bodies of Hapilon and Maute were positively identified by the troops on the ground.
He said the military tried to capture the two leaders but they were armed when the troops encountered them going from one building to the next in the main battle area.
“They were killed during an encounter. The situation was fluid. We were very careful in our rescue operation. We did not fire on anybody who did not carry firearms. We made sure he was not hostage,” Año said.
Isnilon, who was hit on his breast, carried with him R4 assault rifle, while Maute, hit on his head, was armed with M4 carbine.
Maute was hit by a sniper of the Philippine Army.
Hapilon had a US $5 million bounty on his head, while Maute had P5 million.
Año said these bounties will be given to the qualified and deserving recipients.
“This will undergo a process of the US reward system. We have informants who will receive the reward,” he added.
Despite the killing of the two, Año clarified that the Armed Forces of the Philippines is not declaring Marawi City as cleared, and there will be no movement yet of troops and assets from the main battle area.
The military is still going after all the remaining Maute members, he said.
“The Maute brothers and Isnilon are the ‘centers of gravity’ or the strength of the group who pull the whole organization for support,” Año said.
“May mga loose firearms pa na kailangang i-clear. Magiging mabilis na ang operasyon ngayong patay na sila Omar at Isnilon,” he added.
Maute, along with brother Abdullah, was reportedly among the frontrunners of the extremist group that laid siege to Marawi City.
The Maute brothers allegedly pledged fealty to IS and were seeking to establish a caliphate in Mindanao.
President Rodrigo Duterte, in an attempt to squelch insurgency and foil possible spillover to other parts of the country, declared martial rule, which is effective until end of December 2017.
More than 1,000 people have been killed in the Marawi violence, including more than 800 terrorists.
Army Colonel Romeo Brawner said Sunday, October 15, that about 40 terrorists were still fighting in a small residential area by Lanao Lake, including 100 relatives of the gunmen and civilian hostages. (With SunStar Philippines)