ABU Sayyaf leader Isnilon Hapilon offered millions of pesos to anyone who could get him out of Marawi City as government troops closed in on his position, Armed Forces chief Gen. Eduardo Año said Wednesday.
“He offered millions to anyone who could give him a bangka and who could guide them out of the main battle area,” Año said in Filipino on a radio interview. “But we made a promise that he would not escape and we would get him dead or alive.”
Troops from the Army Scout Ranger Regiment and other special forces killed Hapilon and Omar Maute early Monday morning.
The military said Hapilon, the Abu Sayyaf group leader, was shot in the chest while Maute was finished off by a head shot.
President Rodrigo Duterte declared Marawi City free from the ISIS-inspired terrorists, even as clearing operations continued.
Año said the remaining stragglers were holed up in an area near the Marawi pier, and that the operation against them could be considered one of law enforcement.
“This is next to Lanao Lake and covers less than one hectare,” Año said. “There are a few buildings and structures so we have to be cautious, but the area [that remains to be cleared] is small.”
He said the only way the stragglers could get out alive was to surrender.
Año said they were focused on freeing some 18 to 20 hostages that the terrorists were using as human shields.
The stragglers, including eight foreign fighters, are holed up in the ruins of the battle zone trying to escape.
“This stragglers are on the run and in survival mode, but we will not stop until we get these remaining terrorists,”Año said.
As of Oct. 17, a total of 854 Maute members, 163 government troops, and 47 civilians have been killed, data from the military showed.
In addition, 1,770 civilians have been rescued while 846 firearms have been seized.
Australian Foreign Minister Julie Bishop said the death of Hapilon and Maute will take away a great deal of the momentum of the ISIS forces and those who are supporting the terrorist group.
In a press conference, Bishop also said that the Australian government will continue to support the Philippines in its anti-terrorism efforts.
“The Australian government, along with other governments including the United States, are determined to support the Philippine government in defeating ISIS,” she said.
“This is undoubtedly in our national interest because we do not want to see foreign terrorist fighters leaving the Philippines and coming via Indonesia to Australia, and that’s why we are working collectively, collaboratively with other nations,” Bishop added.
Since the war broke out in May in Marawi, Australia has provided surveillance support through the Australian Defense Force. With Sara Susanne D. Fabunan