Credit to Author: DEMPSEY REYES| Date: Fri, 15 Mar 2019 16:18:42 +0000
The leader of the Islamic State (IS)-inspired Maute group, Owaydah Marohombsar alias Abu Dar, was believed to have been killed along with his three followers in a gunfight with Philippine Army forces on Thursday in Tubaran, Lanao del Sur in southern Mindanao.
Marohombsar was tagged as the successor of Isnilon Hapilon as “emir” of the IS in Southeast Asia, after the latter was killed during the five-month siege in Marawi City in 2017.
Hapilon was among the masterminds of the Marawi City siege along with the Maute brothers, resulting in the deaths of 1,000 people.
Col. Romeo Brawner Jr., commander of the Army’s 103rd Infantry Brigade, said the information on Marohombsar’s death came from three “highly-credible” sources on the ground and would have to be verified by the military.
He declined to disclose who the informants were, citing security reasons.
Brawner was reported to be at the encounter site when he spoke to the media to disclose witnesses’ accounts that Marohombsar’s body was among those recovered by soldiers in Barangay Dinaigan, Tubaran.
The clash in Tubaran erupted at 5:04 p.m. on Thursday, where soldiers under the Army’s 49th Infantry Battalion engaged around 10 Maute fighters.
It lasted for one hour and 30 minutes, initially leading to the deaths of two Maute fighters and three soldiers.
Three soldiers also went missing after the firefight.
On Friday, Col. Gerry Besana, spokesman for the military’s Western Mindanao Command, said the three soldiers have been found, one of whom was also killed and the two others were wounded.
On the same day, according to Brawner, the bodies of four terrorists were recovered by soldiers from the encounter site, where the informants identified one of them as that of Marohombsar.
“We still need to validate if Abu Dar’s was indeed among the cadavers found. This was based on the information given by three highly credible sources,” he said in a phone interview.
Brawner added that the bodies recovered, especially the cadaver being pointed as Marohombsar’s, would be subject for DNA testing by the Philippine National Police’s Scene of the Crime Operatives.
Lt. Gen. Arnel dela Vega, the regional military commander, condoled with the families of the slain soldiers, “who fought valiantly and paid the ultimate sacrifice.”
Security forces are fighting terrorists in several fronts in neighboring Maguindanao province and on Wednesday, the military claimed to have killed nearly two dozen gunmen, including a
Singaporean terrorist, Muhammad Ali Bin Abd Al Rahman, alias Muawiya, a notorious jihadist belonging to the Indonesian Jemaah Islamiya and had been a bomb trainer for the Abu Sayyaf Group.
The 6th Infantry Division said the campaign, which began March 11, was aimed at destroying a huge group of Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters, whose leaders have pledged allegiance to the IS.
It added that reports said those killed in the fighting in Shariff Saydona town were followers of Abu Turaife.
The reports were based on intelligence information, but Army commanders claimed to have seen or recovered body parts of those killed in an area targeted by military bombardments.
Over 100 terrorists were being pursued by the security forces in Maguindanao, which is also a stronghold of the rebel group Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) that signed an interim peace deal with Manila in 2014.
In ensuing clashes, one soldier was killed and at least seven others were wounded.
The military’s Joint Task Force Central (JTFC) said air, artillery and ground operations were continuing not only in Shariff Saydona, but also in the towns of Datu Salibo, Mamasapano and Shariff
Aguak where the group of pro-IS commander Salahudin Hassan was scattered.
The task force revealed that former BIFF members who surrendered to the military had provided intelligence that allowed the security forces to track down locations or hideouts of the terrorists in the province.
“Former BIFF rebels who surrendered to the JTFC also supported the information being relayed to locate the specific locations of the terror group. Follow-on operations ensured that the terrorists were confined in the area and prevented the spillover as our troops were deployed in the strategic areas,” it said, adding that the military coordinated with the MILF to prevent any accidental clashes while troops were pursuing the BIFF in the towns.
Philippine authorities have blamed the BIFF and the Maute group for terror attacks in the restive southern region.
Also on Friday, a Taguig court convicted for rebellion a member of the Maute Group who participated in the Marawi siege.
Judge Felix Reyes, acting presiding judge of Regional Trial Court (RTC) Branch 70 found Junaid Awal guilty of rebellion and crimes against the International Humanitarian Law, genocide and other crimes against humanity.
He was sentenced to 40 years in prison.
The Department of Justice said this was the first conviction under the Philippine Act on Crimes Against International Humanitarian Law.
Awal was accused of repeatedly raping a minor during the Marawi uprising in 2017. The girl and her mother were held captive by the group.
“These bestial, cruel and inhuman acts committed by the accused are obviously of extreme gravity pursuant to Sec. 7 of the said act,” the judge said.
WITH AL JACINTO AND NEIL JAYSON N. SERVALLOS