U.S. DNA tests confirmed that a senior Filipino militant who helped plan the five-month siege of Marawi in the southern Philippines in 2017 was killed in a March gun fight, the military said Sunday.
Army Col. Romeo Brawner, commander of the 103rd Brigade, told BenarNews that tests revealed tissue samples from a body recovered in the town of Tubaran, Lanao del Sur, belonged to Owaida Marohombsar, whom military officials had referred to as Humam Abdul Najib (alias Abu Dar).
Brawner said U.S. officials notified their Philippine counterparts about the DNA result.
“It’s Abu Dar. He is dead. President Rodrigo Duterte was supposed announce it on Friday in Marawi, but he was not able to come due to bad weather,” Brawner said.
“Those he (Dar) recruited could not continue their struggle since he is dead and several followers and supporters have surrendered to us,” the military official said.
On March 14, soldiers pursuing militants in the jungles of Tuburan clashed with a band of militants, leaving two of them and three soldiers dead.
Troops recovered the militants’ bodies, took tissue samples from one believed to be Abu Dar and delivered them to U.S. experts for DNA examination.
Dar was among those who helped plan the Marawi siege that began in March 2017 and ended five months later with the deaths of the Maute brothers and Isnilon Hapilon, the overall regional leader of the Islamic State (IS).
The siege, the biggest that was launched in the region by the IS, led to heavy battles that killed 1,200 people, most of them militants. Several Southeast Asian IS militants, as well as fighters from the Middle East, joined the effort.
Filipino forces, long used to jungle fighting, had to adjust to urban guerrilla warfare. Australian and U.S. forces were called in to help in intelligence efforts, mostly providing aerial and other technical support that helped pinpoint enemy positions.
While Hapilon was killed in October 2017, Dar and several fighters escaped as troops closed in on their positions in Marawi, military officials said.
Last year, military officials had estimated that at least 40 foreign fighters were still believed to be fighting in Mindanao, many of whom had slipped into the south across its borders with neighboring Malaysia and Indonesia.
Dar is believed to have studied in an Islamic school in the northern Philippines before going to Afghanistan for jihad training in 2005. He was an expert bomb maker and had run basic military training for recruits in the southern Philippines, according to military officials.