MANILA: Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte on Tuesday (Oct 17) declared Marawi City "liberated from terrorists" after a five-month battle against militants loyal to the Islamic State group.
Duterte made the declaration in a rain-soaked speech to troops in Marawi where they have been fighting the militants in clashes that have claimed more than 1,000 lives and displaced 400,000 people.
"Ladies and gentlemen, I hereby declare Marawi liberated from the terrorists," Duterte said, speaking moments just after explosions and gunfire were heard in the city.
Shortly after Duterte's announcement, the military said war continues and that there is no way out for the remaining 30 militants who are still in the city.
A military spokesperson added that 20 hostages remain in the conflict zone.
"The declaration of the president hopefully gives way for the entry and start of rehabilitation, reconstruction and rebuilding of Marawi from the ashes," military spokesman Restituto Padilla told news channel ANC.
"The fight for the remaining ground forces continues."
The military was uncertain whether Malaysian operative Mahmud Ahmad was still in the city but he was not known for his skills as a fighter and was therefore not a threat, Padilla said.
On Monday, the military claimed a major breakthrough when it announced the death of Isnilon Hapilon, said by security analysts to be the leader of an IS bid to declare a Southeast Asian caliphate as they suffer battlefield defeats in Iraq and Syria.