The man said to be Islamic State’s leader in southeast Asia – and one of America’s most wanted terrorists – appears to have gone on the run after a five-week battle in the Philippines.
The fight against Islamist militants in the southern city of Marawi began with an attempt to capture Isnilon Hapilon on 23 May.
That triggered a rampage by the militants – backed by some foreign fighters – and parts of the mainly Muslim city were seized.
The president of the Philippines, Rodrigo Duterte, declared martial law in Marawi and the entire southern region of Mindanao.
The resulting offensive was intended to crush what Mr Duterte said was an attempt to establish a province in the area.
General Carlito Galvez said Hapilon had not been seen in the battle zone.
“We have some reports that he was already able to slip somewhere but as of now we are still confirming the reports,” General Galvez told radio station DZBB.
Asked whether Hapilon was on the run, he added: “Yes, because reportedly he suffered a lot of casualties.
“Majority of his group, more than half, were casualties.”
Hapilon, who is on the America’s most wanted terror list and has a $ 5m (£3.9m) bounty on his head, was indicted in Washington for his involvement in the kidnapping of three Americans in the Philippines in 2001.
He heads a faction of the Philippine militant group Abu Sayyaf, which has pledged allegiance to IS.
According to the military, Hapilon’s group combined with the Maute Group, also comprising armed militants, to launch the Marawi siege which is now in its second month.
Troops continued to fight house-to-house gun battles in Marawi on Saturday, with air raids and artillery fire deployed against the militants.