MANILA – President Rodrigo Duterte on Thursday made his third visit to Marawi City, as government troops continue to inch their way towards the terrorists' lair in the strife-torn city.
Duterte took matters into his own hands this time as he tried a sniper rifle and fired at the direction of the terrorists who have been laying siege to the city for three months now, according to a news release from Malacañang.
It was not known if his shots hit Maute gunmen.
Despite the danger in the main battle area, the President insisted on stopping outside the safe zone to inspect the damage near the main battle area, the Palace said.
“I will be happy to die for my country. I need to be with you to show my solidarity,” he told the soldiers during his visit.
Duterte’s visit to the strife-torn city comes after government troops managed to retake the city’s mosque, known to be one of the hideouts of the Islamic State-inspired terrorists, led by the Maute and Abu Sayyaf groups.
An ABS-CBN News source, however, said state troops did not encounter any terrorist or a hostage in the place of worship, which lies at the center of the lakeside town.
State troops have also recovered the city’s police station, located within the main battle area.
In his speech before state troops, the President vowed to end the Marawi crisis as soon as possible.
“We have to end it the way it should be at ang earlier kong pronouncement, we will not stop until the last terrorist is neutralized,” Duterte said.
“Once maano ito we will make sure that we will look for the money to rehabilitate Marawi but at the same,” he added.
The government has earmarked at least P20 billion for the rehabilitation of the strife-torn city. Earlier this week, in an attempt to bring a sense of normalcy in the city, the Mindanao State University resumed operations.
The battle in Marawi has been raging on since May 23, when Islamic State-inspired militants captured parts of the once-vibrant Islamic city. It has left nearly at least 769 dead, mostly terrorists.
The violent clashes prompted Duterte to place the entire Mindanao under martial law until the end of the year, saying the local terrorists were aiming to establish an Islamic State province in the Philippines.
The emergence of groups pledging allegiance to Islamic State has been considered the biggest security problem to face the year-old Duterte administration.
The rise of pro-Islamic State groups in the country has also raised alarm in Washington and the Philippines’ neighbors in the region, which fear that the notorious terror group was seeking to establish a new front in Asia amid its successive losses in Iraq and Syria.