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Relatives of Hapilon, Maute want to surrender

Some relatives of terrorist leaders Isnilon Hapilon and Omar Maute have expressed willingness to lay down their arms and surrender to government authorities after the two were killed by sniper fire before the dawn of October 16 in Marawi City.

Maj. Gen. Restituto Padilla, spokesperson of the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP), disclosed this today, saying the military was pleased with this positive development as this would help bring about peace in the area.

“We are happy to note that there is some sense entering into the minds of all these relatives who bear arms and who have been part of the network,” Padilla told newsmen during the regular Mindanao Hour press briefing in Malacañang.

“As the days go by, let this be (the) good message to all these armed individuals and armed elements,” he said.

Padilla appealed for public cooperation in addressing the issue of loose firearms, particularly in rebel-infested Mindanao, to prevent the recruitment of new terrorist members and leaders.

Hapilon, who headed the biggest faction of the dreaded Abu Sayyaf Group (ASG), and Maute, leader of the Maute terrorist group, were among more than a dozen gunmen who were killed by the elite Scout Rangers four months after their groups attacked the southern Islamic city.

Military reports said that Hapilon and Maute were felled one after another by snipers using long-range rifles fitted with night-vision scopes. Maute was killed with a headshot, while Hapilon died from a bullet in his chest. A total of 11 more hostages were rescued on the same day.

Padilla said their remains were subjected to DNA test for confirmation because of the rewards offered by the United States government. Isnilon had a $5 million reward on his head plus another P10 million from the Philippine government.

No less than Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana confirmed the killings, putting to rest insinuations that the military killed the wrong persons. He said the Scout Rangers were not allowed to partake of the rewards.

Padilla likewise confirmed the death of Malaysian terrorist Dr. Mahmud Ahmad who helped finance the Marawi siege, saying the AFP was in the process of recovering the terrorist’s body.

Mahmud’s death, he said, was verified through a first-person account of a hostage who knew Mahmud and saw the killing.

“He died during the assault of our troops the other day – or the other night, where 12 other rebels died. And we are (in) the process of recovering the body of Dr. Mahmud,” Padilla said.

Padilla said that the AFP would now be shifting its forces to Luzon for a much-needed break and their long-delayed training in Fort Magsaysay in Nueva Ecija following President Rodrigo Duterte’s declaration of the liberation of Marawi.

He said the remaining units in the war-torn city would continue to ensure the security of the people during the rehabilitation and reconstruction phase.

“Most of this will be dependent also in the key sector or areas in Marawi that they are holding. If these are relatively safe, then we will free up our units to depart,” Padilla said.

Evacuees are still not allowed to enter the inner parts of the city until after the AFP’s clearing operations are completed, he said, citing improvised explosive devices (IEDs), booby traps, and other unexploded ordnance planted by terrorists.

Meanwhile, Presidential Spokesperson Ernesto Abella stressed that martial law in Mindanao was still in effect until the last terrorist had been taken out.

“There are remnants, including networks supporting the Maute – the Maute cause within Mindanao. The President is duty-bound not to compromise public safety,” Abella said. #