Fresh DNA analysis suggests that Philippine authorities did indeed kill one of Southeast Asia’s top terrorists in a deadly clash with Muslim rebels late last month, the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) said in a statement yesterday.
Both Philippine president Benigno Aquino as well as members of the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) had claimed that Zulkifli bin Hir, also known as Marwan, was killed in a January 25 controversial police raid in the southern Philippines which killed 44 commandos and has since gripped the nation (The Diplomat reported on that incident here). While the commandos were under siege and unable to carry back Marwan’s dead body, officials had said that they did manage to take pictures of him and cut off his finger. A picture of the dead militant that circulated in local media outlets did closely resemble Marwan’s image plastered in wanted posters, but authorities have been waiting for the results from additional tests to confirm this.
On Wednesday, the FBI appeared to confirm in a statement that preliminary results did indicate a link with “a known relative” of Marwan. The statement, released by David Bowdich, the assistant director of the Los Angeles field office, stressed that “the results do support” a match, even though the FBI would continue to conduct additional tests in order to ensure “absolute certainty.” The caution is warranted, since Marwan has been incorrectly reported killed before.
Marwan headed the terrorist group Kumpulan Mujahidin Malaysia and was a leading member of Jemaah Islamiyah (JI), loosely termed a Southeast Asian offshoot of Al-Qaeda. JI was responsible for a wave of deadly attacks, including the 2002 Bali bombings that killed over 200 people. The Malaysian born, U.S.-trained engineer and expert bombmaker was believed to have been living in the southern Philippines for over a decade and has eluded several airstrikes and raids. He was on the FBI’s most wanted list of terrorists, and the United States had offered a reward of up to $5 million for information leading to his capture.