Philippine military pushes to defeat last Marawi fighters

Ahmad is the top remaining target for government forces battling to end the almost five-month siege of Marawi that has claimed more than 1,000 lives and left the Islamic city in ruins.

The bloody battle cost the lives of more than 1,000 people with many more civilians displaced in the fighting.

The military, which killed two key militant leaders on Monday, said they hoped it was the final phase of defeating a dwindling band of fighters who had occupied Marawi for nearly five months.

Following his appointment, Hapilon, based in Basilan, combined his terror unit with the Maute Group in central Mindanao.

Despite the gain, Lorenzana said that there was still one Maute leader, identified as "Doctor Mamud", who came from Malaysia, who was still at large.

Ano said troops are focused on rescuing the remaining hostages, which number around 22.

Fighting in Marawi City erupted between when government forces tried to arrest Hapilon who was declared as the "emir" of the terror group ISIS in Southeast Asia last May 23.

However, AFP Chief of Staff General Eduardo Año stressed in a press briefing in Marawi, also on Tuesday, assured that just because the battle is near its end, it does not mean that there will be a "letup" in their operations.

"We have received a report from [Armed Forces of the Philippines] ground commanders in Marawi that the operation conducted by government forces to retake the last remaining Daesh-Maute stronghold in the city has resulted in the death of the last terrorist leaders Isnilon Hapilon and Omar Maute, and that their bodies have been recovered by our operating units", said Lorenzana.

The military's recent offensive led to the release of 17 hostages, according to Zia Alonto Adiong, spokesperson for the Marawi Crisis Management Committee. DNA tests will be carried out on the two bodies because of the reward offer from the U.S. and Philippine governments, Lorenzana said. "So, it's huge money", the defense chief said.

Hapilon is believed to have been involved in the 2001 kidnappings of three Americans, two of whom were later killed.

Ano added with Hapilon and Maute dead, the equation may change. He said "the Maute-IS have established very strong defensive positions", adding that the IS fighters were hiding in dugouts and basements of occupied buildings.

The rebel alliance in Marawi is comprised of fighters from the Maute group, Abu Sayyaf, and aided by foreigners from countries that include Malaysia, Indonesia, Singapore, and some Middle East states.