In a photograph obtained by News5, two persons can be seen, face-to-face and in amiable conversation, it is said, in the Islamic City of Marawi.
These persons have been identified by military sources as Abu Sayyaf leader Isnilon Hapilon, who has moved to Marawi from his erstwhile base on the island province of Basilan to link up with the terrorist Maute Group leader Abdullah Maute.
Noticeable in the image, it is pointed out, that the two look rather drawn and haggardly, a bit on the gaunt side, compared to past pictures of them from dossiers and archives.
A News5 source shared that the image was a fairly recent one.
Their appearance could be due to the stress and difficulties experienced in the almost three-month Battle of Marawi, which has still to enter the end-game phase, as the government forces continue to pile pressure on the remnant terrorist forces.
The image is at odds with various claims and accounts tending to dismiss the leaders of the siege as having either died or fled the war zone, especially with an apparent rash of “sightings” of them reported in recent days.
Capt. Jo-Ann Petinglay, the Spokesperson of West Mindanao Command, told journalists: “We do have various intelligence reports, but we’re still checking these out. We can’t say for sure until we are able to verify the reports and establish positive confirmation.”
One thing the military is confident about: The enemy has no possibility to slip out of the battle area.
Capt. Petinglay added: “We have to neutralize them here and now. Our mission is to neutralize them, but at the same time avoid unnecessary harm befalling the civilian hostages.”
Day by day, the air strikes and surgical bombardment continue and intensify, even as the military has always taken care not to indiscriminately target buildings and structures that might have non-combatants, civilians, being held as human shields.
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