As Philippine troops push deeper into territory previously staked out by militants linked to the Islamic State, they are encountering parts of Marawi that lie in ruins after nearly four months of fighting.
The battle began on May 23, when hundreds of militants led by Abu Sayyaf Group leader Isnilon Hapilon, the acknowledged chief of the Islamic State in the region, seized parts of Marawi. Hapilon’s forces were backed by the Maute gang of militants, as well as foreign fighters from the Middle East and Southeast Asia, making the city the center of gravity for IS militancy in Asia.
On Friday, Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana declared government troops were close to retaking Marawi, a once-picturesque city of 200,000. He said militants were cornered in two neighborhood blocks.
“There’s only little resistance left,” Lorenzana said. “That’s why I’ve been told by ground commanders that the end is near.”