'Terrorists will crumble': Military kills Isnilon Hapilon, Omar Maute

Marawi City (CNN Philippines, October 16) — Government forces killed two terrorist leaders in Marawi City, signaling the end of the crisis, top military officials said on Monday.

Armed Forces of the Philippines Chief General Eduardo Año said Abu Sayyaf leader Isnilon Hapilon and Omar Maute of the Maute group were killed by the military during a firefight early Monday morning. He said the terrorists were trying to escape with the hostages when they were shot by government troops. Hapilon was hit in the chest area, while Maute was hit by a sniper in his head, Año said.

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He said government troops were trying to rescue Maute hostages when they killed the terrorists.

"Ang purpose ng tropa natin is to rescue the hostages, kasi naipon na natin sila sa isang block lang. Dalawang building 'yung kinalalagyan so 'yung mga hostages ang in-irerescue then nagkaroon ng bakbakan doon... Kumbaga final stand nila eh," he said on Monday.

[Translation: The purpose of our troops was to rescue the remaining hostages, since we were able to locate them in one block. They were in two buildings so we rescued the hostages, then the firefight happened... This was their final stand.]

 

A total of nine cadavers were recovered by the military in the battle area, Año said. There is no report on the status of Abdullah Maute, Omar's brother.

The military is also going after Dr. Mahmud Ahmad, a Malaysian terrorist who joined the ISIS-inspired Maute group. Año said less than eight foreign terrorists — including Malaysians and Indonesians — remain in Marawi City.

Aside from the foreign terrorists, less than 30 Maute members are still fighting in the area. Año said with the deaths of Hapilon and Maute, they expect lot of the members to surrender to the government.

"They are stragglers. They don't have leaders anymore, they're on their own," he said.

End of Marawi crisis nears

Authorities said the deaths of Hapilon and Maute indicate the end of the Marawi crisis is nearing — earlier than the target date set at the of October.

"The Marawi crisis will be over sooner than later. The terrorists will crumble," Año said.

Defense Chief Delfin Lorenzana added, "We may announce the termination of hostilities in Marawi within this week."

But he said they will still look into the lifting of martial law in Mindanao.

President Rodrigo Duterte offered a P10-million bounty for Hapilon. This is on top of the $5-million reward offered by the United States for the Abu Sayyaf leader. The government also offered a P5-million bounty for each of the two Maute brothers.

Año said 20 hostages, including a two-month-old baby, were rescued on Monday.

There are still over 20 hostages left in Marawi and rescue operations are ongoing.

"Hindi pa tayo pwedeng magkumpyansa kaya kailangang tuloy-tuloy pa rin ito until we get the last terrorist and will rescue the last hostage," Año said.

He said President Duterte was pleased upon hearing the news of the deaths of Hapilon and Maute, after 147 days of armed clash in Marawi.

"He is very happy. He is congratulating our troops, sabi niya, 'Nagbunga na," Año said. 

Defense Secretary Lorenzana said with the death of the two leaders, the military is preparing for retaliation of the Maute group. Año added they are prepared in case the terror group launches a counterattack.

"We know the modus of the enemy is to do diversions here and there," Lorenzana said.

Lorenzana said they are preparing for the possibility that terrorists will move to Cotabato, Basilan, Zamboanga, and Davao City, but he is confident they can prevent it by being more vigilant.

As of Monday, the government has lost 162 soldiers, and more than 1,700 others were wounded. Government forces have killed 824 Maute fighters since fighting broke out on May 23 in Marawi City in Lanao del Sur. There are 47 civilian casualties.

Hapilon and Maute members pledged allegiance to terror group ISIS. ISIS is said to have recognized Hapilon in 2014 as its leader in the Philippines and in Southeast Asia. The military believes ISIS was planning to set up a caliphate in Marawi City.

As the military planned to arrest Hapilon on May 23, Maute members emerged from within Marawi and fought with government troops. The crisis prompted President Rodrigo Duterte to declare martial law in Mindanao.

CNN Philippines correspondents Gerg Cahiles, Claire Jiao, and digital producer Lara Tan contributed to this report.