Duterte visits main battle area in Marawi

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  • President Rodrigo Duterte visited Marawi City for the third time on Thursday to boost the morale of government troops from the Joint Special Operations Task Force Trident.

Marawi City (CNN Philippines, August 24) — It was President Rodrigo Duterte's third time Thursday in this war-torn city, but his first time this close to the main battle area.

Duterte met with ground troops to boost their morale, 94 days after the conflict broke out in Marawi City.

"I need to be with you to show my solidarity," he told the soldiers. In his first two visits on July 20 and August 4, President Duterte was restricted to the military's Camp Ranao.

The military is inching closer to liberating the city after clearing nine buildings and retaking key infrastructure in Marawi. The military early Thursday retook the Islamic Grand Mosque, a symbol of strength and resistance for the Maranao people of the city. It added the Maute group is occupying an area of less than a square kilometer.

"We will not stop until the last terrorist is neutralized. 'Yun ang sinabi ko and that will be the objective; the ultimate objective of the Armed Forces of the Philippines," the President said.

Once the fighting ends, Duterte said he will look for the money to rehabilitate Marawi.

The President, through an executive order, created early in July Task Force Bangon Marawi, an interagency unit that will rebuild the city once the fighting is over.

Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana, who heads the task force along with Public Works and Highways Secretary Mark Villar, said the President approved a budget of P20 billion for the rehabilitation.

READ: Gov't creates interagency task force for Marawi rehab

The Marawi crisis, which began on May 23 after the ISIS-linked terrorist group Maute attacked the city, has led to the death of 45 civilians as of August 23, said Presidential spokesperson Ernesto Abella.

Abella added 595 terrorists have been killed, while 129 government troopers have died in action.

CNN Philippines' Rex Remitio contributed to this story.