Maute brother believed to have been killed in Marawi fighting

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The Philippine military on Saturday declared an eight-hour halt to its air and ground offensive against Islamic militants aligned with the Islamic State group in southern Marawi city to allow residents, a lot of them displaced by the fighting, to celebrate the end of the Muslim fasting month of Ramadan.

In a statement, presidential spokesperson Ernesto Abella said "the military is validating the intelligence report" that Mahmud bin Ahmad "died from wounds he sustained during the early days of the Marawi rebellion".

"We have been told that the military has information of the spot where he was buried and government troops are now trying to locate it and recover the remains".

Mahmud is suspected of channelling more than 30 million pesos (S$829,000) from ISIS to acquire firearms, food and other supplies for the Marawi assault, Gen Ano said, citing intelligence shared by foreign counterparts.

At least 280 militants, 69 soldiers and police and 263 civilians have been killed in a month of fighting since the militants laid siege on the Islamic city.

Brig. Gen. Restituto Padilla said in a text message to reporters that the military has chose to declare a stop of military offensives against the Islamist militants with links to Islamic State (IS) holed up in some parts of the city.

Australia said Friday it will send two high-tech spy planes to help Filipino troops fight the militants, joining the USA which has also provided similar help.

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"We can just bomb them away or use napalm bomb to burn everything, but then, we will not be any different from them if we do that", he said.

Australian Defense Minister Marise Payne said the Philippines accepted an offer of two AP-3C Orion aircraft to provide surveillance to local troops.

An attempt by government troops to arrest Hapilon in Marawi on May 23 triggered a rampage by Islamic State-linked Maute Group, backed by some foreign fighters, who seized parts of the mainly Muslim city.

Powerful clans and warlords, along with insurgencies, have effectively weakened law enforcement in large areas in the country's south, making it easier for militants to take over an area and hold it, said Sidney Jones, director of the Institute for Policy Analysis of Conflict in Jakarta, Indonesia. "It's a much broader problem that needs a strategic solution".

"This is the objective why we are making a collective effort against terrorism and violent extremism through a trilateral cooperation with Indonesia and Malaysia", Abella said. They agreed on a plan of action to combat terrorism and rising extremism and deal with the prospects of Asian fighters returning to their region from Syria and Iraq, where the Islamic State group has been losing territory.

The Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) has unilaterally declared an 8-hour truce in the besieged southern Philippine city of Marawi starting at 6 a.m.local time on Sunday, a military spokesman announced.

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