MANILA - If things go as planned, the military may be ready to declare the conflict in Marawi City over by Sunday, or five months since it began, the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) Western Mindanao Command (WESMINCOM) chief said Saturday.
"I believe we can," Lt. Gen. Carlito Galvez told reporters in Camp Ranao, Marawi City.
While close to finishing clearing operations in the main battle area, the AFP has been holding off any declaration as remnants of Islamic State-linked terrorist forces remain in the conflict zone with several hostages.
President Rodrigo Duterte had on Tuesday declared the city "liberated from terrorist influence" following the killing of terror leaders Isnilon Hapilon and Omar Maute.
On Thursday, he confirmed the killing of Malaysian terrorist Mahmud Ahmad, known to be Hapilon's right-hand man.
Still, the military is looking for several individuals, including Hapilon's three sons, known to still be in the battle area, and two remaining foreign terrorists.
Authorities earlier said foreign terror leaders took over after Hapilon and Maute were killed.
At least 1,108 people, mostly terrorists, have died since clashes erupted in the city on May 23. Some 400,000 residents in Marawi City and nearby towns were also forced to evacuate, as the crisis left much of the city in ruins.
Government has begun laying down plans to rebuild Marawi, once a bustling urban and cultural capital and the country's only Islamic city.
The military has also commenced a gradual pullout of troops from the battle zone.
-- Report from Dennis Datu, ABS-CBN News