Philippine military halts attacks on ISIS, declares truce in Marawi City
MARAWI CITY – The Philippine military has declared a ceasefire on Sunday in the besieged city of Marawi where hundreds of ISIS militants are battling security forces since May 23 in an effort to carve out a province of the Islamic State in the restive southern region.
The daylong ceasefire will allow Muslims in Marawi to celebrate the end of Ramadan, Islam’s fasting month, and welcome Eid Al-Fitr. Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) Chief of Staff General Eduardo Año approved the truce on the recommendation of the Western Mindanao Command.
“The declaration seeks to allow the Islamic faithful to celebrate prayerfully and peacefully Eid al-Fitr which happen to fall on Sunday, 25 June in Marawi. We declare a lull in our current operations in the city on that day as a manifestation of our high respect to the Islamic faith. A testimony to the AFP's solid commitment to provide our brother Muslims especially in the City of Marawi an opportunity to observe this festive event marking the end of the month-long period of Ramadan,” Año said.
But Año said he will resume offensives if security of troops is jeopardized or the safety of civilians is threatened; and if militants start shooting again. “At that point, our personnel may exercise their right to self defense,” he said.
The declaration of truce also coincided with reports that Abu Sayyaf chieftain and local ISIS leader Isnilon Hapilon and other commanders may have escaped government offensive in Marawi. And that the military is trying to gather intelligence on the reported deaths of brothers Omar and Madie Maute, both ISIS commanders, who were allegedly slain in the fighting.
But other reports claimed that the duo is alive and that Omar - one of key leaders of the local ISIS group with links to Khilafah Islamiyah Movement and the Ghuraba - even exchanged messages with other supporters on social media and posted a photo of himself and Madie as proof that they are still alive and fighting.
The military also said there were reports that Malaysian terrorist and local ISIS financier, Mahmud Ahmad, was also killed in Marawi. (With reports from Moh Saaduddin and Rhoderick Beñez.)
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