Philippine troops say they have killed Isnilon Hapilon, the Abu Sayyaf militant who is seen as Islamic State group’s leader in southeast Asia.
Isnilon Hapilon, who is on the US’s list of “most wanted terrorists”, was killed in fighting in Marawi, Defence Secretary Delfin Lorenzana said.
The city has been partly held by insurgents since a rebel attack in May.
The southern Philippines has seen months of fighting between the military and Islamist insurgents.
The region is home to a number of Muslim rebel groups, many of which have in recent years sought alliance with so-called Islamic State.
According to the defence secretary, the military also killed Omar Maute, head of the region’s Maute insurgency group.
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Who is Isnilon Hapilon?
- A leader of Abu Sayyaf, a group notorious for kidnapping, piracy and for beheading hostages, including foreigners
- Factions of the group aim to create an Islamic caliphate in the southern Philippines, while others have pursued criminal activity
- Isnilon Hapilon pledged allegiance to IS in 2014 – IS later urged all Muslims in southeast Asia to unite under his leadership
- The US has offered a bounty of up to $5m for him
- Has links to the Maute group, another local insurgency group which has declared allegiance to IS
Observers say the occupation of Marawi stoked fears that militant Islamist ideology is more prevalent on the island of Mindanao than had previously been imagined.
The region is the only Muslim-majority part of the otherwise largely Catholic Philippines.
Defence Secretary Lorenzana told reporters that following Isnilon Hapilon’s reported death, “the Marawi incident is almost over and we may announce the termination of hostilities in a couple of days”.
He also added the bodies of the two were undergoing DNA tests.