The Latest: Duterte says Marawi liberated, still skirmishes
MARAWI, Philippines (AP) — The Latest on the militant siege in the southern Philippine city of Marawi (all times local):
Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte has declared the southern city of Marawi liberated though the military continues to battle a dwindling band of Muslim militants.
Duterte spoke Tuesday in Marawi before an audience of troops at a ruined school campus more than a kilometer from the area where fighting continues.
“Ladies and gentlemen, I hereby declare Marawi city liberated from the terrorist influence,” he said to cheers.
Military chief Gen. Eduardo Ano told AP that Duterte’s statement means the threat from the militants, who’ve been fighting in Marawi since May 23, is substantially over. “They’re leaderless and they have no more organization,” he said. “There are still skirmishes.”
Sporadic gunfire and explosions can be heard in the southern Philippine city of Marawi as soldiers fight the remaining Islamic militants to gain control of the last pocket of the city.
The military, which killed two key militant leaders on Monday, hopes it is the final phase of defeating a dwindling band of fighters who have occupied Marawi for five months.
Military spokesman Restituto Padilla said Tuesday there were 20 to 30 militants left, including about six to eight foreign fighters.
The lakeside city has been devastated by fighting that began May 23.
Philippine flags hung from pockmarked buildings and houses, their roofs either blasted away or riddled with gunshot holes.
Soldiers stood guard in front of some buildings and at intersections where battle debris has been shoveled to the side.