MANILA, Philippines (UPDATED) – "Ladies and gentlemen, I hereby declare Marawi City liberated from the terrorist influence that marks the beginning of rehabilitation."
This was what President Rodrigo Duterte said when he made his 7th visit to Marawi City on Tuesday, October 17.
He declared the liberation of Marawi City from local armed groups whose leaders pledged allegiance to the international terrorist network Islamic State (ISIS).
AFP Spokesperson Brigadier General Restituto Padilla, however, said the war in Marawi continues. "It will continue until armed elements are dealt with. But terrorists no longer have complete control."
"There are still a few more that are left, and a few more hostages that are still in the area that remains to be a battle area. The declaration of the President hopefully gives way to the entry and start of rehabilitation, reconstruction, and rebuilding of Marawi from the ashes."
Padilla said the rebuilding of Marawi "needs to have the go signal of the President that's why the declaration has been made. But the fight for the remaining armed members that are still in the area continues and based on the ground commanders' testaments – it's most likely that the President was debriefed – that this is a matter of time, that will happen soon, and that there are no complications that will be seen or are seen at the moment, this is why the declaration has been made."
He added, "a greater part of Marawi" has been freed and liberated.
A day earlier, troops killed Isnilon Hapilon and Omar Maute – the top leaders behind the siege – and rescued 17 hostages.