Philippine troops retake Grand Mosque in Marawi City
With the retaking of Marawi City's Grand Mosque early on Thursday, the Philippine military said yesterday that it has finally tipped the scale and is nearing the final stage of the campaign against an uprising by militants linked to the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria.
The Grand Mosque is the biggest and most symbolic of the Islamic nature of the city because of its prominence.
"Having it under the hands of the government provides an impetus to symbolically say that we have captured the centre of the city," Brigadier-General Restituto Padilla told reporters.
"The enemy's world is getting smaller."
The mosque, which houses the Masjed Mindanao Islamic Centre, had been used by militants from the Maute terrorist group as a shelter, stockade, sniper's nest and holding area for their hostages.
Satellite images show the area around it has been reduced to rubble. The army had avoided bombing it out of respect for Muslims.
Brig-Gen Padilla said retaking the mosque took a month because troops had to secure districts around it before they could stage an assault.
Three soldiers were wounded in the final push to retake it. No hostages were found, however, and the gunmen defending the mosque had apparently managed to flee.