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Philippines military ‘kills Islamist Isnilon Hapilon’


Philippines military 'kills Islamist Isnilon Hapilon'

Image copyright Reuters
Image caption The military had spent years trying to find militant Isnilon Hapilon

Troops in the southern Philippines say they have killed Isnilon Hapilon, the Abu Sayyaf militant seen as Islamic State group's leader in southeast Asia.

Hapilon, who is on the US list of "most wanted terrorists", was killed in Marawi along with another wanted militant, Omar Maute, the army said.

The city has been partly held by insurgents since a rebel attack in May.

The reported deaths came amid an army push to end the siege after months of fighting between troops and militants.

The region is home to a number of Muslim rebel groups, many of which have in recent years sought alliance with so-called Islamic State (IS).

"It will be just a matter of days before it will finally be declared that Marawi has been liberated from the clutches of terrorists," army chief of staff General Eduardo Ano told a news conference. "There will be no let up."

He held up photos of two bloodied faces he said were those of Hapilon and Maute, one of two brothers who head the region's Maute insurgency group.

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Hapilon was shot in the head and Maute died of a chest wound during a night-time operation, officials said. A freed hostage tipped off the authorities about their whereabouts.

Who was Isnilon Hapilon?

  • A leader of Abu Sayyaf, a group notorious for kidnapping, piracy and for beheading hostages, including foreigners
  • Factions of the group aim to create an Islamic caliphate in the southern Philippines, while others have pursued criminal activity
  • Isnilon Hapilon pledged allegiance to IS in 2014 – IS later urged all Muslims in southeast Asia to unite under his leadership
  • The US has offered a bounty of up to $5m for him
  • Has links to the Maute group, another local insurgency group which has declared allegiance to IS

Observers say the occupation of Marawi stoked fears that militant Islamist ideology is more prevalent on the island of Mindanao than had previously been imagined.

The region is the only Muslim-majority part of the otherwise largely Catholic Philippines.

Image copyright EPA
Image caption The city of Marawi has suffered from months of fighting

Gen Ano said troops were still fighting dozens of Islamist fighters in the area and had rescued about 20 hostages

He said the bodies of the two militant leaders had been identified by experts and former rebels.

Defence Secretary Delfin Lorenzana told reporters that following Hapilon's reported death, "the Marawi incident is almost over and we may announce the termination of hostilities in a couple of days".

He added that the bodies of the two were undergoing DNA tests.

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