The Philippines ended a five-month long security crisis with a final assault Monday on a building held by pro-Islamic State (IS) fighters in Marawi, killing 42 militants, including five foreigners, government officials said.
The siege of the southern Philippine city launched by IS-linked militants on May 23 left 1,132 enemy combatants, soldiers and civilians dead, flattened buildings and displaced more than 200,000 residents, officials said.
“We now announce the termination of all combat operations in Marawi,” Philippine Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana said at Clark freeport, a former U.S. air base north of Manila, where defense ministers of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) were meeting.
“There are no more militants inside Marawi,” he said, adding that the Philippines would cooperate with other ASEAN countries and its partners in strengthening anti-terrorism capabilities.
Lorenzana’s announcement coincided with the start of the two-day meeting of ASEAN defense ministers, attended by U.S. defense chief Jim Mattis and his Australian counterpart, Marise Payne. Both countries had lent aerial surveillance support to the Philippine military campaign in Marawi, about 1,170 km (730 miles) south of the country’s capital Manila.
“In crushing thus far the serious attempt to export violent extremism and radicalism in the Philippines and in the region, we have contributed to preventing its spread in Asia and gave our share to maintaining global peace, stability and security,” Lorenzana said.
The military assaulted the building where the enemy stragglers had dug in, leading to close-quarter combat that left 42 gunmen dead, he said. He did not say how many soldiers were killed.
He said the slain militants comprised the “last group” of fighters in Marawi, a week after President Rodrigo Duterte declared the city liberated from enemy fighters.
Full story: BenarNews
Jeoffrey Maitem and Mark Navales
Marawi, Philippines. Felipe Villamor in Manila contributed to this report.
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