- The Philippine city of Marawi has been liberated from ISIS militants following a 4-month-long siege
- Over 1,000 people died with many more civilians displaced in the fighting in recent months
- It is thought that ISIS militants Isnilon Hapilon and Omar Maute offered cash bribes to flee the city before they were killed
- U.S. President Donald Trump is set to visit the Philippines next month
Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte has announced the liberation of Marawi City, following a four-month-long battle against ISIS-linked terrorists.
The bloody battle cost the lives of more than 1,000 people with many more civilians displaced in the fighting.
"Ladies and gentlemen, I hereby declare Marawi City liberated from the terrorist influence that marks the beginning of the rehabilitation of the city," Duterte said in an announcement earlier today.
The news comes after two terrorist leaders Isnilon Hapilon and Omar Maute were killed in an assault by Filipino troops.
The two men offered millions of pesos in a desperate bid to flee the besieged area after the government refused to open negotiations with the group.
Meanwhile, Hapilon and Maute were so desperate to flee the city that they even commanded hostages to provide them with boats.
Military intelligence suggests that two boats were prepared but the two men were unable to reach them due to intense fighting.
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The pair were killed when army troops closed in on the town shortly after midnight on Monday.
"We received such information that they were offering millions for anyone who can lead and can provide them with banca (boat) and guide them out of [the] main battle area," Armed Forces chief General Eduardo Año said.
Military officials believe that over a billion Philippin pesos ($19,495,080) in loot stolen by ISIS militants remains buried around the battle area.
"As days passed, they (terrorists) each took [their] own [share of the loot] and hid the money so that when they can escape, they can come back for it," Año said.
"I believe the money is still inside the main battle area," he added.
The siege, which lasted almost five months destroyed much of the city’s once popular center and left more than 400,000 people from Marawi and elsewhere living in temporary shelters.
The government rejected talks with militants throughout the crisis and even took the controversial step of capturing the parents of the group’s leaders.
The end of the siege comes as U.S. President Donald Trump prepares to meet with Philippine leader Rodrigo Duterte during a trip to Asia in November.
“The President’s travel will underscore his commitment to long-standing United States alliances and partnerships, and reaffirm United States leadership in promoting a free and open Indo-Pacific region,” White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders said in a statement on Monday.
The Filipino leader has received widespread criticism for human rights abuses and a brutal crackdown on dissent. The President claims that he is targeting drug dealers and criminals but rights groups believe that the crackdown is more widespread.
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