Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte wears a bulletproof vest and helmet with government troops in Marawi City, the Philippines, August 24, 2017. Duterte visited the government troops in Marawi City on Thursday. (Xinhua/Presidential Photo)
MANILA, Aug. 24 (Xinhua) -- Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte spent two hours on Thursday with troops fighting to retake the rest of the southern Philippine Marawi City from the remaining 50 Islamist extremists.
It was Duterte's third visit to the city since war erupted on May 23. The three-month conflict has so far killed nearly 800 people, including 129 security personnel, 595 militants and 45 civilians.
Col. Romeo Brawner, the deputy commander of the military contingent in Marawi, said that the president arrived around 4:00 p.m. local time and spent nearly a couple of hours talking with the soldiers.
Brawner said Duterte stayed in the "main battle area" and congratulated the troops for the progress of the ongoing offensive against the militants allied with ISIS.
"He reminded soldiers of their ties and responsibilities, to serve (the country). He also talked about corruption, and told the soldiers to focus on their job," Brawner said.
Lt. Col. Emmanuel Garcia, chief of the military's Civil Relations Service in the area, added that Duterte lauded the troops for retaking the Islamic center on Thursday morning.
A few hours before Duterte's arrival, the troops managed to gain control of a mosque that militants took over during the past weeks, but at least three soldiers were wounded in the offensive.
Displaced Marawi City students returned to school this week.
The military bused some 600 students to Marawi State University from nearby Iligan City where they are temporary sheltered after the war broke out.
The government plans to start the rehabilitation of the heavily-devastated city as soon as all the villages are clear.
The pro-ISIS Maute group attacked Marawi City on May 23, prompting Duterte to declare martial law in Mindanao a few hours after the attack.