Isil’s leader in Philippines killed in gun fight, DNA test confirms

DNA tests have confirmed the death of Isil’s leader in the Philippines, who in 2017 laid siege to the city of Marawi and was among the group’s most senior figures in the region. 

Tests carried out by the United States at the Philippines’ request found that remains retrieved from a battle on March 14 belonged to Owaida Marohombsar, who was also known by his nom de guerre Abu Dar. 

He was one of four terrorists killed during the fierce gun fight near the southern town of Tubaran in Lanao del Sur province. 

"This is another milestone in our campaign to finish and defeat ISIS and local terror groups in the country," said the Philippines’ interior minister Eduardo Ano. 

"For now, his group is leaderless. We are monitoring who will replace Dar," added defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana at a press conference over the weekend. 

Marohombsar helped lead the May 23, 2017, siege of Marawi, which troops quelled after five months of ground assaults and airstrikes that left more than 1,100 people, mostly militants, dead and destroyed the mosque-studded city’s commercial and residential districts.

Most leaders of the attack were killed, but Marohombsar survived with a large amount of looted cash and jewelry from Marawi that authorities feared he could use to rebuild the militant’s battered organization and plot new attacks. 

One regional official, Zia Adiong, said at the time that Marohombsar escaped from Marawi with at least 30 million pesos (£428,000) in stolen money.  

Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte placed the country’s south under martial law to help eradicate Isil forces which survived the Marawi siege, and hunt down its allied groups, such as Abu Sayyaf in Sulu province.

Marohombsar’s death will strengthen the control of Abu Sayyaf leader Hajan Sawadjaan, who is based in Sulu’s jungles, over a number of Isil-linked armed groups in the south. 

A Philippine police profile said Marohombsar was reported to have undergone military and explosives training in Afghanistan in 2005 and returned to the south a few years later and established an armed group called the Khilafa Islamiyyah Mindanao.

The group was implicated in the 2013 bombing of a bar in a shopping mall in southern Cagayan de Oro city that left several people dead and wounded.

Several more groups in the south pledged allegiance to the Islamic State group the following years, allowing them to consolidate under the IS flag in 2015 and 2016 with then-Abu Sayyaf commander Isnilon Hapilon as their leader and launch the Marawi siege the following year. 

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