Marawi's liberation closer after the deaths of Hapilon, Omar Maute

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Omar Maute (left) and Isnilon Hapilon (right), two leaders of the Maute Group were killed in a firefight on Monday, (October 18).

Metro Manila (CNN Philippines, October 16) — The war may not be over just yet, but for the government and its troops inside Marawi, it was still a day of victory.

Authorities said the liberation of Marawi may come soon after the leaders of the rebels, Isnilon Hapilon and Omar Maute, were killed early Monday.

 

According to Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana, the twin deaths could signal the end of the war within days, as troops gain ground on the last remaining stronghold of the Maute group.

"The area that our troops are clearing is just very small, several blocks only. It may take them today and tomorrow to clear that," he said at a dialogue with business leaders.

Zia Alonto Adiong, spokesman of the Lanao Crisis Management Committee, agreed. He said the death of  Hapilon and Omar Maute would weaken the Maute group and a lot of the fighters would surrender.

"We're moving toward the end of this fighting very, very soon," Adiong predicted.

Lorenzana expressed confidence that the Islamic State or ISIS would be unable to stage another large-scale attack in the Philippines after the death of the two masterminds and more than 800 fighters of the Maute Group.

Attention is now turning to the equally daunting task of rebuilding Marawi City. Lorenzana had initially estimated the cost of rebuilding at P50 billion, but he doubled this to ₱100 billion after touring the war-torn city earlier with President Rodrigo Duterte.

Hapilon and Omar, one of the Maute brothers who founded the ISIS-inspired group, were killed early Monday as they tried to escape when the military rescued their hostages.,

The Maute brothers and Hapilon, who is said to have been acknowledged by ISIS as the "emir" in the Philippines and Southeast Asia, led an attempt to establish an ISIS caliphate in Marawi City with their invasion of the southern city which began on May 23.

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

Brawner: Omar Maute, Hapilon deaths among main objectives

In an interview with CNN Philippines News Night Monday, Col. Romeo Brawner, Deputy Commander of JTG Ranao, said government troops had a hard time hunting down Hapilon and Omar as there were a lot of improvised explosive devices along the way.

 

"More than that, foremost in the minds of our soldiers was the safety of the hostages," he said.

But with their mission accomplished, Brawner said the troops were in high spirits, adding that both Armed Forces Chief Eduardo Año and Lorenzana had seen the cadavers.

Despite their victory, Brawner they would not be celebrating it as there were no winners in war. Once the firefight is over, they would clear the area of improvised explosive devices, booby traps, and unexploded ordnance.

The Department of Health would then come in to "sanitize" the area as diseases, like dengue and typhoid fever, are everywhere and have hit some soldiers.

Lorenzana said the Defense Department and the Marawi local government will supervise all reconstruction efforts.The Housing and Urban Development Coordinating Council will lead the rebuilding of homes, while the Public Works Department will focus on roads, bridges and government facilities.

Marawi City is six times bigger in area  than Manila, with and a population of 200,000 before the fighting began.

Moving forward

A total of 824 Maute terrorists, 167 soldiers, and 47 civilians have been killed in almost five months of gunbattle. More than 350,000 people from Marawi and its nearby towns have been displaced by the fighting.

 

The government is now preparing should ISIS relocate – or worse, retaliate – elsewhere in Mindanao. Lorenzana said teams were being sent to cities around Davao, Cotabato, Basilan and Zamboanga to meet with barangay leaders and residents, urging vigilance and briefing them on signs of suspicious activity to watch out for.

"The only way (ISIS) could do this again is if people in these areas do nothing when they see some foreign-looking people with firearms and explosives, which happened in Marawi," Lorenzana said.

The Defense Department and Marawi local government will supervise all reconstruction efforts, Lorenzana said. The Housing and Urban Development Coordinating Council will lead the rebuilding of homes, while the Public Works department will focus on roads, bridges and government facilities. Marawi City is six times bigger than the city of Manila, and was home to a population of 200,000 before the fighting began.