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Malaysian terrorist could be new IS leader in Marawi

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Pro-IS militants continue fierce fight in Philippines' Marawi

"We are hoping that we will end this Marawi siege very soon", Colonel Romeo Brawner, deputy commander of the task force battling the militants, told reporters on Friday, as cited by AFP.

"Once more, CBCP is the hapless victim of fake news", CBCP president Lingayen-Dagupan Archbishop Socrates Villegas said in a statement.

Rumors of Hapilon and Maute's death have periodically circulated in the past but on Monday Philippine Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana confirmed the latest reports to the Philippine Daily Inquirer.

The military said Monday Hapilon - on the U.S. "most wanted terrorists" list - was killed in a dawn offensive alongside Omarkhayam Maute, one of two brothers who with Hapilon plotted to take over the city.

He said the terrorists are still holding about 20 hostages.

Philippines security forces had laid siege to the city on 23 May after President Rodrigo Duterte imposed martial law in the region to conduct the anti-terror operation against Isis-linked Abu Sayyaf group and Maute group.

The two men offered millions of pesos in a desperate bid to flee the besieged area after the government refused to open negotiations with the group.

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"The Marawi incident is nearly over and we may announce the termination of hostilities in a couple of days", Lorenzana said.

On the other hand, Omar Maute and his brother Abdullah founded a group named after them that pledged allegiance to the Daesh following their return to the Philippines from their studies in Egypt where the imbibed the Daesh teachings.

Since then more than 1,000 people have been killed and 400,000 residents displaced as insurgents were hit with a relentless bombing campaign and intense ground battles with troops.

As of October 16, the military reported that 824 terrorists had been killed, 827 firearms were recovered and 1,771 hostages were rescued. Hapilon was based in Basilan island in the strife-torn south but authorities said in January that he had moved to the Mautes' base in Lanao del Sur province, 300 kilometres (180 miles) east, to create an alliance and to establish an IS presence there.

Ano added with Hapilon and Maute dead, the equation may change.

However an analyst said the deaths of the leaders would likely prompt retaliatory attacks from their followers and allies, with young leaders seeking to take their place.

Islamic State (IS)-linked militants were putting up fierce resistance as government forces continued a bloody offensive to retake the southern Philippine city of Marawi, an army commander said on Sunday. "It's going to be a new battle".

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