Defense chief: Marawi crisis is over

MANILA (Updated) -- The war between government forces and terrorists in Marawi City, Lanao del Sur, is finally over with the remaining extremists killed in the recent encounter.

Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana announced this development on the sidelines of the regional security meeting in Clark, Pampanga, on Monday, October 23.

"We now announce the termination of all combat operations in Marawi," he said.

He said the last members of the Maute terror group were "finished," saying the troops recovered 42 bodies of the last group of terrorist stragglers.

"Those are the last group of stragglers of Mautes and they were caught in one building so there was a firefight, so they were finished," he said.

Two security officials had told The Associated Press earlier Monday, October 23, that troops had found the bodies after capturing the building where the terrorists made their final stand.

Lorenzana said hostages the terrorists had held were recovered a few days earlier.

"There are no more militants inside Marawi City," he said.

The declaration came exactly five months after the war broke out in Marawi on May 23. Over 1,000 people were killed in the firefight, officials said.

MalacaƱang on Monday hailed the government troops for their "courage, gallantry, and sacrifice" for five months of battling with Islamic State-inspired Maute terrorist group in the war-torn city.

"We have successfully concluded what has been, so far, the most serious threat of violent extremism and radicalism in the Philippines and in Southeast Asia. The defeat of the Daesh-inspired Maute Group likewise underscores our singleness of purpose in the global war against terrorism," Presidential Spokesperson Ernesto Abella said.

"Finally, we commend government troops, including the fallen, for their courage, gallantry, and sacrifice. A snappy salute to all of you," he added.

Army Colonel Romeo Brawner, Joint Task Force Ranao deputy commander, said 920 Maute group fighters and 165 government police and military troops were killed in the siege while 1780 hostages were rescued.

"As of now, our troops are recovering cadavers which were left in the last building. That is around 30 to 40 cadavers," he said.

Abella said that the national government would now focus on the restoring peace and order to Marawi.

"With the liberation of Marawi, our focus now shifts to the enormous and challenging task of rebuilding, reconstruction and rehabilitation of the Islamic City," the presidential spokesperson said.

Mindanao martial law

Following the government's announcement of the end of the crisis in Marawi, a party-list lawmaker urged the President to immediately lift the martial law in Mindanao.

"It is now time to also terminate the state of Martial rule in Mindanao," Bayan Muna Representative Carlos Isagani Zarate said.

"Martial rule should not be used as an excuse to further trample the rights of the people of the island, especially the innocent Lumads and peasants who are displaced in other parts of Mindanao," Zarate said.

But Philippine National Police (PNP) Chief Ronald Dela Rosa on Monday said he has no plans to recommend to President Rodrigo Duterte the immediate termination of the martial law in Mindanao even if the military has already terminated the combat operation in the war-torn Marawi.

Dela Rosa said the martial law in Mindanao, which was extended by Congress until December 31, is necessary to jump-start the recovery and rehabilitation of the war-stricken city.

He said he also does not see as of the moment the need to recommend the extension of the martial law since the war is over.

"I think the December 31 extension is already enough unless there would be another siege which may require us to recommend for the extension but if everything is normal December 31 is enough," Dela Rosa said in Filipino.

On May 23, Duterte placed the entire Mindanao region under a 60-day martial law after the Maute terror group attacked Marawi, snatched hundreds of hostages, and burnt several establishments and occupied buildings and used the city as their strong-hold for nearly five months.

Dela Rosa said police Special Action Forces who took part in the war in the Marawi will arrive in Manila on Wednesday, October 25.

"We are preparing for an activity to recognize their heroic efforts in Marawi. Although they are not being exposed our counterparts from the AFP [Armed Forces of the Philippines] knows their contribution," the PNP Chief said in Filipino.

Last Friday, October 20, at least 400 soldiers of the Army's 1st Infantry Battalion returned to their base in Tanay, Rizal. (SunStar Philippines/With AP/Ruth Abbey Gita/Third Anne Peralta-Malonzo)
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