DNA test confirms death of last surviving plotter in southern Philippine 2017 siege

Source: Xinhua| 2019-04-14 17:49:57|Editor: Yamei
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MANILA, April 14 (Xinhua) -- A DNA test has confirmed that Abu Dar, the lone survivor of the Maute Group leadership that plotted the 2017 attack of Marawi City in the southern Philippines, has been killed, Philippine Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana said on Sunday.

"It is confirmed, it's Abu Dar's remains. Well, for now his group is leaderless. We are monitoring who will replace Dar," Lorenzana said.

Abu Dar, whose real name is Owayda Benito Marohomsar, was among the terrorists killed by Philippine security forces in the March 14 clash in Tubaran town in Lanao del Sur province this year. The military tagged Dar as the alleged emir of the Islamic State (IS) in Southeast Asia.

Abu Dar was also among the Maute leaders recorded on video in a planning session that the military believes was for the attack of Marawi City in Mindanao. The military said the video was seized from the slain militants planning the assault.

Also seen on the video clip with Abu Dar were Omar and Abdullah Maute, whom the military tagged as the founders of the Maute Group, and Abu Sayyaf leader Isnilon Hapilon, one of the most wanted terrorist leaders in the region with alleged link to IS extremists. The three were all killed in an assault in Marawi.

Army Col. Romeo Brawner, commander of the 103rd Brigade based in Marawi, said Dar's death is a major victory in the fight against terrorism.

"He was a known religious leader," Brawner said, adding Abu Dar's death would also mean the end of Dawlah Islamiya Lanao Group.

Military records showed that Abu Dar was a native of Pagayawan town in Lanao del Sur and served as the spiritual leader of Maute brothers.

The Philippine military has launched several operations to hunt down Abu Dar and even dangled a three million peso (about 58,000 U.S. dollar) bounty for his capture.

Founded approximately seven or eight years ago by Omar and Abdullah Maute, the Maute group declared its allegiance to IS in 2014. Born in the city of Marawi, both brothers studied in the Middle East and became fluent in Arabic.

Aside from the 2017 attack on Marawi, the Maute group was responsible for multiple attacks throughout the Philippines, including the September 2016 Davao market bombing that killed 15 people and injured 70 others, as well as an attempted bomb attack in November of 2016 near the U.S. embassy in Manilla.

The Duterte government is in the process of rebuilding the city's central business district ruined by the five-month-long Marawi siege that killed over 1,000 people in 2017. Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte imposed martial law in the entire Mindanao a few hours after the May 2017 attack.

The Philippine Congress has granted Duterte's three requests for martial law extension to quell the rebellion in the southern region. Martial law remains in the region until Dec. 31, 2019.