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Maute group leader likely killed in airstrike

Armed Forces of the Phiippines (AFP) chief of staff General Eduardo Año Tuesday said that they are still validating reports that one of the leaders of the militant Maute Group was killed during an airstrike in Marawi City late last month.

Año said in an interview that Omar Maute, one of two leaders of the group who carries a P5-million bounty, was reportedly killed during an airstrike last May 28.

“Hindi pa naman confirmed ’yung report. Still for validation and malaki din possibility na buhay pa sya (The report is still not confirmed. Still for validation and there is a big chance that he is still alive),” Año said.

On Monday, President Duterte has offered a total of R20 million bounty for the neutralization of Isnilon Hapilon, deemed the “Emir” of Islamic State in the Philippines; and Maute brothers Abdullah and Omar.

Reports that Omar Maute was killed last month came even as reports circulated in February 2016 that he and two of his brothers ended up dead during a fight against government forces in Butig, Lanao del Sur.

No less than relatives of Omar claimed that a bomb killed him February 21, 2016. The explosion also left his younger brother Matti Maute dead.

Meanwhile, Año assured that they have enough forces to neutralize and clear areas where Maute Group members are still hiding.

“We have enough forces there but just to be sure we will add additional forces to guard areas which we already cleared,” Año said.

“Our troops are already on ground zero conducting clearing operations. There is a need to guard areas already cleared of the terrorists so that they could not create terroristic actions,” he said.

Año said that based on reports coming from the ground commander, there are at least 100 Maute members remaining in Saduc proper.

Isnilon Hapilon is said to be with the group. (FRANCIS T. WAKEFIELD)

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