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IS Southeast Asia Chief Killed in Philippines

IS Southeast Asia Chief Killed in PhilippinesIS Southeast Asia Chief Killed in Philippines

The head of the self-styled Islamic State terrorist group in Southeast Asia, who figures on the US “most wanted terrorist” list, was killed on Monday in the battle to reclaim a militant-held Philippines city, officials said.

Isnilon Hapilon’s reported death came during a final push to end the nearly five-month siege of Marawi, a battle that has claimed more than 1,000 lives and raised fears that IS was seeking to set up a regional base in the southern Philippines, AFP reported.

President Rodrigo Duterte and security analysts say Hapilon has been a key figure in the militant outfit’s drive to establish a Southeast Asian caliphate as they suffer battlefield defeats in Iraq and Syria.

The military said the long-haired leader was killed in a dawn offensive alongside Omarkhayam Maute, one of two brothers who allied with Hapilon to plot the takeover of the city.

“It’s a big deal for us that they were killed,” defense secretary, Delfin Lorenzana, told reporters, adding that Hapilon’s death was a symbolic blow to regional militancy because he had been declared the local emir of the IS group.

Philippine military chief of staff General Eduardo Ano showed reporters a photo of what he said was Hapilon’s bloodied face.

The US government had offered a $5 million bounty for information leading to Hapilon’s arrest, describing the 51-year-old as a senior leader of the southern Philippines-based Abu Sayyaf group, which the US considers a “foreign terrorist organization”.

Ano said Philippine ground forces launched an assault before dawn, sparking a four-hour gun battle that led to the two leaders’ deaths.

Philippine authorities have made several previous announcements on the imminent end of the conflict, but observers believe this time the forecast is likely to be accurate.

Pro-IS gunmen occupied parts of Marawi, the Islamic capital of the mainly Catholic Philippines, on May 23 following a failed attempt by security forces to arrest Hapilon, authorities said.

Since then more than 1,000 people have been killed and 400,000 residents displaced.

Duterte has imposed martial law across the southern third of the Philippines to quell the militant threat.

 

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