Philippines optimistic after IS militant group-linked leaders killed

Men identified by Philippines Intelligence officers as Isnilon Hapilon and Abdullah Maute are seen in this still image taken from video released by the Armed Forces of the Philippines

Lorenzana noted that through the testimony of a hostage "who escaped" Saturday, they were able to confirm the presence of Hapilon, touted as the Emir of the Islamic State in Southeast Asia, and Maute in one of the buildings. "So while aspects of Marawi may be applied to other cities, you would not have a five-month long siege happening in other cities", he says.

Troops used megaphones to urge the remaining militants to give up.

Soldiers stood guard in front of some buildings and at intersections where battle debris had been shovelled to the side.

Defense officials announced Monday that two of the last leaders of the siege - Isnilon Hapilon, who is one of the FBI's most-wanted terror suspects, and Omarkhayam Maute - were killed in a gunbattle.

It may take more than three years to rebuild Marawi's ruined commercial and residential neighborhoods, officials said, and it remains unclear how the massive construction cost can be financed.

Military chief of staff General Eduardo Ano later clarified that the fighting against 20 to 30 remaining militants continued, describing them as "stragglers" and the clashes as "mopping operations".

Joseph Franco, a Singapore-based security expert tells TIME that the loss of Hapilon - a charismatic leader with religious credentials and military experience - is a major blow for ISIS in the Philippines.

The insurgents have withstood a relentless US-backed bombing campaign and intense ground battles with troops that have left large parts of Marawi in ruins.

Streets in Marawi were littered with machine gun bullet casings and rubble, including a van and twisted roofing sheets piled up on sidewalks.

Another high profile militant still in the main battle area in Marawi is Malaysian Mahmud Ahmad, reportedly a recruiter and financier of ISIS in the Philippines.

Isnilon Hapilon's reported death came during a final push to end the almost 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. Hapilon once belonged to the brutal Abu Sayyaf extremist group and later shifted to the IS-linked alliance of about 10 small militant groups. The pair have been central to regrouping, re-arming and recruiting militants.

However an analyst said the deaths of the leaders would likely prompt retaliatory attacks from their followers and allies, with young leaders seeking to take their place.

"The US Government will continue to work with the Armed Forces of the Philippines in the final phases of this operation, and looks forward to cooperating in assuring the stabilisation and rehabilitation of Marawi", US embassy press attache Molly Koscina told AFP.

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