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As Mattis Arrives in Philippines, Mop-up in Marawi Is Declared Over

October 23, 2017 8:59 am

Mr. Mattis told reporters before his arrival on Monday that the Philippines had delivered a “very necessary message to the terrorists” in Marawi. Mr. Mattis and the other defense chiefs were expected to discuss Islamist militancy and other issues affecting the region, including North Korea’s nuclear pursuits and territorial disputes in the South China Sea.

Photo

Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana, left, said Monday that the “last group of stragglers” in Marawi had been killed in a firefight with the military. At right is Gen. Eduardo Año, the head of the Philippine armed forces. Credit Bullit Marquez/Associated Press

Mr. Lorenzana’s announcement came 154 days after militants led by Isnilon Hapilon, whose Abu Sayyaf group is affiliated with the Islamic State, sacked the southern city of 200,000, burning homes, killing Christians and prompting most residents to flee.

The fighting was triggered on May 23, when the Philippine military moved to arrest Mr. Hapilon and was surprised by a huge rebel force that had stockpiled large numbers of weapons.

Since then, much of the city has been devastated as the military, with intelligence support from the United States and Australia, fought to reclaim it. At least 1,000 people have been killed, most of them militants.

President Rodrigo Duterte said last week that Marawi had been “liberated,” though officials later clarified that there were still fighters in the city. Mr. Hapilon was killed last week, as were the last of the Maute brothers, who led a militant group allied with Mr. Hapilon’s, and Mahmud Ahmad, a Malaysian who the authorities described as a key financier for the militants and a link to the Islamic State in Syria.

Mr. Lorenzana said the military had crushed the “most serious attempt to export violent extremism and radicalism” to the southern Philippines.

“While we submit that these tactical and strategic gains will not annihilate the ideology completely, we declare that this achievement is a clear manifestation of how our regional cooperation can lead to a decisive advance against the proliferation of terrorism in this part of the world,” he said.

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