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Military believes five of Maute brothers killed in Marawi

Five of the Maute brothers have been killed in the fighting in Marawi which has already claimed hundreds of lives and decimated most of the town's central business district. Photo via AP, File

MANILA, Philippines — The military said Friday that five of the Maute brothers who led the siege of Marawi City may have been killed, leaving only one, Omar, to continue conducting the most serious security challenge to face the government of President Rodrigo Duterte to date.

The siege of Marawi has been raging for 109 days now, and it has already claimed the lives of hundreds of Islamist rebels, security personnel and civilians aside from decimating the town’s central business district.

According to the military, fighting, which continues to be fierce, is now confined in a 20-hectare area.

“We got word from the commander on the ground, Lieutenant General Galvez, and as you have been hearing the last few days, they have reason to believe that only one of the Maute brothers remains in the fight, and this is Omar,” Restituto Padilla, a military spokesperson, said in a media conference in the wood-paneled presidential palace.

The Armed Forces said that it based its assessment on information from the ground and statements of witnesses who were able to escape from their captors.

“The rest [of the Maute brothers] are believed to have been killed. But just the same, we need to, with finality and certainty, recover their bodies and subject them to DNA testing before a categorical statement can be issued,” Padilla said.

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Padilla emphasized that the military is focused on ending the battle, which has been described as the most serious security problem to strike Southeast Asia since the Bali bombings in early 2002.

According to the military spokesperson, despite the dwindling number of militant fighters, many challenges still remain that prevent the swift conclusion of the siege.

“The proliferation of IEDs in the area, other booby traps that have been laid along the way of the troops, the existence of a few snipers, and the existence of a few armed elements in specific areas that are in the vicinity or the peripheral areas of these areas that they still hold,” he said.

Padilla said that the militants were still holding around 20 to 30 hostages.

Based on the information as of Thursday, the military has already killed 653 militants while 145 of its personnel have perished in the fighting.

Forty-five civilians have also died in the fighting, and more than 200,000 have been displaced by the hostilities that have highlighted the extremely high level of preparation that the militants put into the siege and the severe deficiency of the military especially in urban combat.

The government and the Armed Forces have given several deadlines to end the fighting in the past, all of which they failed to meet.

As a sign of growing desperation on the side of the rebels, the military reported that women and children were firing shots upon its troops.

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