MANILA - The Armed Forces of the Philippines will no longer send more soldiers to fight Islamic State-inspired extremists in the southern city of Marawi, a spokesperson said Monday.
AFP Chief of Staff General Eduardo Año has deferred deployment of troops to Marawi "because there is already sufficient number of personnel" there, said AFP Public Affairs Office chief Colonel Edgard Arevalo.
"The battalion commander felt a little bit disappointed because they were all yearning to go to Marawi and participate in the operation, but the chief of staff decided not to continue sending another battalion there," he told reporters in a press conference.
Thousands of government forces are pursuing Maute extremists and its affiliates, which laid siege to the Islamic city starting May 23.
The violence had prompted President Rodrigo Duterte to place the entire Mindanao region under martial rule. The Supreme Court has affirmed Duterte's declaration, and the joint houses of Congress voted to extend it until the year's end upon his initiative.
Security troops have confined the fighting down to less than a square kilometer within Marawi after sustained close combat and artillery operations.
However, the military also said on Monday that two Maute brothers and Isnilon Hapilon, who led the months-long rampage, were likely still alive, contrary to earlier reports.
AFP spokesperson Brig. Gen. Restituto Padilla said the 2 men supposedly killed by recent state offensives were not Omar and Abdullah Maute, but possibly their younger siblings.
Omar and Abdullah, Padilla said, were likely still in Marawi, along with Hapilon, the supposed Islamic State emir in Southeast Asia.