SHARIFF AGUAK, Maguindanao: The deaths of Isnilon Hapilon and Omarkhayam Maute mark the end of the Marawi siege and the beginning of the long process of healing and recovery among the people, according to Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (ARMM) Gov. Mujiv Hataman.
Hataman made the statement after Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana, in a news conference on Monday morning, confirmed the deaths of the two based on field reports from Marawi City, where the military killed them in separate locations before dawn on Monday, 145 days since the conflict erupted in the city, the capital of Lanao del Sur province.
“Today, the end of five months of fighting in Marawi can finally begin,” the governor said.
In the last five months, ARMM officials have been coordinating with the Lanao del Sur provincial government, the city government of Marawi and Task Force Bangon Marawi, immediately sending relief under the ARMM’s HEART (Humanitarian Emergency Assistance Relief Team).
“Trust that we will remain in the service of the people as we end this dark time in our history and will continue to provide the necessary resources and assistance to facilitate the transition and return to Marawi City with as much ease as possible,” Hataman said.
“In these dark times, we have become a source of light and warmth for each other. In the face of conflict, it is the Meranao [Maranaw] people who have taken the lead in reclaiming peace in the Islamic City,” he added.
Hataman said amid the terror, there were many individuals and groups–government workers, non-profit and private organizations and volunteers–who became heroes rising in the face of adversity and selflessly offering themselves despite the risk of losing everything.
He saluted the police and the military who have sworn allegiance to the flag and affirmed that they will serve and protect the people, losing their lives as they fought terror and fulfilled their sworn duty.
“This victory marks the end of the siege of Marawi, but it also means the beginning of a long but necessary process of healing and recovery among our people. What happened in Marawi is sheer violence and terror rearing its ugly head against true Muslims and Moros, and yet it has failed to break our shared faith and our collective spirit,” Hataman said in his statement.
The ARMM governor reiterated his assurance to give his all-out support to the people of Marawi.
“We will be with you, today and in the days ahead. In moving forward, we remain one with Marawi,” Hataman said.
Meanwhile, text messages from Hapilon’s relatives in the adjoining towns of Maluso and Lantawan in Basilan province confirmed his death.
“Wafat neh Sir. Sure ne teed,” a cousin said in one of the text messages in the Yakan dialect.
It means Hapilon is dead and that the clan is sure about it.
Sources from Marawi City informed The Manila Times that the bodies of Abu Sayyaf chief Hapilon, who is considered as the “emir” of the Islamic State (IS) and Omar of the Maute terror group were retrieved in separate locations in the main battle area.
Their bodies were found by pursuing combatants of the Army’s 8th Scout Ranger Company, according to senior members of the League of Mayors in Lanao del Sur and incumbent provincial government officials.
Military sources said Hapilon, Maute and their followers were among more than a dozen gunmen killed in encounters with the rangers using remote-controlled devices to locate their exact locations.
Officials said the two were felled one after another by snipers using long-range rifles fitted with night-vision scopes.