Philippine troops retake most of Marawi
The fight against the Daesh-linked Maute group in Marawi is down to just two villages as the offensive entered its 71st day, the military said Tuesday.
Military spokesman Brig. Gen. Restituto Padilla said the military is working to confirm reports the terror group's leader, Abdullah Maute, has been killed.
Padilla previously said Abu Sayyaf leader Isnilon Hapilon, the Daesh-appointed "emir" of Southeast Asia, may have already escaped clashes in Marawi and that Abdullah's brother, Omar, may have died.
On Monday, The Philippine Star reported that soldiers captured a key bridge leading to the group's main position.
The report said government forces are now in control of the Mapandi Bridge that leads to Marawi's interior business district where about 40 remaining militants are believed to be holding 80 to 100 hostages, mostly in a large mosque.
Padilla said the military has direct access to ground zero, referring to the bridge over Marawi's Agus River that can now be used to transport troops and combat supplies.
"Our main objective is to rescue the hostages," he was quoted as saying.
According to Western Mindanao Command spokesperson Capt. Jo-Ann Petinglay, the number of Maute terrorists fighting government troops has been reduced to around 70.
At least 114 troops have died since fighting started May 23, she said, adding that most of them had been killed by bombs planted by Maute militants in buildings and houses.
President Rodrigo Duterte was forced to declare martial law in Mindanao after the group laid siege to Marawi. The fighting has also claimed the lives of dozens of civilians while hundreds of militants have also been killed.
Authorities said that crisis has displaced more than 104,000 families living in more than 70 evacuation centers across Marawi.