The terrorist leaders behind the carnage in Marawi are to be given Islamic burials — even while hundreds of other dead continue to rot in the city’s streets.
Isnilon Hapilon and Omar Maute, the Islamic State-linked leaders of the bloody siege were shot and killed before dawn this morning (Monday, October 16).
Army chief of staff General Eduardo Año confirmed that Maute was killed by sniper fire while Hapilon fell during a shootout.
“The bodies will be buried according to Muslim rites,” he said during a televised press conference. “We won’t disclose the location because we don’t want their sympathisers to make this a symbol of martyrdom.”
Meanwhile, local government officials expect to recover more than 500 bodies of civilians and terrorists.
“It could be more, but it doesn’t mean the figures I gave are the actual number of cadavers inside,” Zia Alonto Adiong, spokesman of provincial crisis management committee, said.
“Our volunteers, along with our disaster teams, will work hand in hand with police and military in retrieval operations once the fighting stops.”
Terror attack death toll
An estimated 822 terrorists and at least 47 civilians have been killed since fighting chaos erupted on May 23.
As of today, the death toll on the government side has reached 163 while more than 1,700 soldiers have been wounded.
Local authorities have so far buried 147 bodies in a mass grave in the nearby village of Mapandayan.
General Año said DNA tests would be conducted on the bodies of Maute and Hapilon before their burial.
Hapilon is the official representative, or ‘emir’ of the Islamic State in Southeast Asia.
The former Abu Sayyaf commander has a $5 million FBI bounty on his head for the ransom kidnappings of several Americans, one of whom was beheaded in Basilan in 2001. The Philippine government has also offered for 10 million pesos for his capture, dead or alive.
Maute, the leader of a locally-based terror group bearing his family’s name, also has a five million peso price on his head, as did his late brother, Abdullah, who was killed earlier in the siege.
Army spokesman Major General Restituto Padilla described the death of the two leaders as a “turning point” in the conflict. “These two leaders have been focal personalities of this fight,” he said.
A senior Malaysian militant, Mahmud bin Ahmad, aka Abu Handzalah, is yet to be killed or captured.
Among the final batch of surviving terrorists are about 10 foreign jihadis, believed to be mostly Malaysians and Indonesians.
Defence Secretary Delfin Lorenzana said that with the death of the two leaders, the government may soon be able to announce the end of hostilities.
The beginning of the end
Displaced civilians have already begun to celebrate the beginning of the end.
Nairah Ampaso, aged 28 and a mother of five, said: “Allah has answered my prayers. We prayed that these leaders will be killed. I am happy that they are dead,” she told the Inquirer.
“I hope that their deaths will mean the end of the war and we can return to our homes.”
Nafisa Dimaro, 24, whose house has been destroyed during the fighting, said: “Their souls will not enter heaven. They caused so much destruction. My children suffered a lot because of what they did.”
Presidential spokesman Ernesto Abella confirmed that “mopping up” operations were continuing.
“We will also announce the termination of hostilities once government troops have ensured that the remaining terrorists holed up in the city are neutralised or captured and that they have cleared all structures of IEDs and other traps,” he said.