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MANILA, Philippines (UPDATED) – After years of manhunt and a number of botched military and police operations, the Philippines finally got top Jemaah Islamiyah (JI) terrorist Zulkifli Abdhir, better known as “Marwan.”
The Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) was able to match the sample obtained by the police Special Action Force (SAF) in the January 25 operation in Mamasapano, Maguindanao, with the DNA of his brother who is detained in the US, according to the FBI report obtained by Rappler from two separate police sources.
“Based on preliminary test results the FBI has evidence that supports the claim that the DNA sample provided by the Government of the Philippines (GOP) on 27 January 2015 is related to the currently incarcerated subject Rahmat Abhdir,” read the report obtained by Rappler. (Read more about Marwan, his brother and activities in the Philippines in this exclusive Rappler report.)
“Preliminary testing indicates Rahmat Abdhir and the DNA sample provided by the GOP are consistent with coming from siblings and sharing the same paternal heritage (i.e. same biological father),” the report added.
A SAF commando told Rappler they knew as early as 3 days after the January 25 operation that the FBI confirmed the DNA match. The final confirmation was relayed to him on Wednesday, February 4.
He said he believes relieved SAF commander Director Getulio Napeñas Jr already had the information before he held a press conference Wednesday where he threatened to quit if it wasn’t Marwan that the SAF killed in Mamasapano.
A military intelligence officer is the third source to separately confirm that Marwan was killed in the January 25 SAF operation.
The 84th Special Action Force (SAF) company killed Marwan inside his hut in barangay Pidsandawan in Mamasapano, Maguindanao, in a bloody clash with Moro rebels that left 44 elite cops dead.
Unable to carry his body, they cut his finger for DNA matching. (READ: Inside Mamasapano: When the bullets ran out)
Another team of SAF commandos that was supposed to serve as their blocking force were engaged in a firefight with the Moro Islamic Liberation Front, the Muslim rebel group that is in control of the area but which has a peace agreement with the Aquino government.
Marwan’s death ends the years-long hunt for the member of the JI central command, the group that is responsible for the 2002 Bali bombing that killed more than 200 people.
But it also came at a high price: a demoralized police force in the wake of the killing of 44 cops, a derailed peace process, and an angry public demanding accountability.
The operation against Marwan was supervised by someone not in the official chain of command but who enjoys the trust of the President: suspended PNP chief Director General Alan Purisima.
He is one of the most wanted terrorists of the FBI, which raised a US$5-million bounty for his arrest. The Philippine government also put up a P7.4 million bounty for Marwan’s arrest.
In his speech last week, President Benigno Aquino III also highlighted the importance of getting Marwan. He cited a series of acts of terrorism in the Philippines that Marwan is responsible for. He said Marwan also worked with Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters (BIFF) leader Umbra Kato.
Marwan has been the target of a number of police and military operations.
In 2012, Marwan managed to evade the first-ever US smart bomb attack in the Philippines against him in Sulu. That operation killed his long-time host, Abu Sayyaf leader Umbra Jumdail Gumbahali, better known as Doc Abu.
He also evaded a second secret special operations attempt in July 2012, after he fled to the marshy swamplands in Butig, Lanao del Sur, near the Moro Islamic Liberation Front’s Camp Bushra.
A US-trained engineer, Marwan also heads the Kumpulan Mujahidin Malaysia or KMM. He has reportedly conducted bomb-making training for terrorist groups like the Abu Sayyaf Group of the Philippines.
He was believed to have been living in the Philippines since 2003. He was indicted by a US court in 2007 for, among other charges, providing material support to terrorists.
Here is FBI’s description of Marwan:
“Zulkifli Abdhir is thought to be the head of the Kumpulun Mujahidin Malaysia (KMM) terrorist organization and a member of Jemaah Islamiyah’s (JI) central command. It is alleged that he is a supplier to terrorist organizations and also conducts bomb-making training for terrorist organizations, specifically the Abu Sayyaf Group. Abdhir was indicted on August 1, 2007, in the United States District Court, Northern District of California, and charged with providing material support to terrorists, conspiracy to provide material support to terrorists, contributing goods and services to a specially designated global terrorist, and making false statements.”
In a story published on February 3, Rappler Executive Editor Maria Ressa wrote: “A senior leader of Jemaah Islamiyah, once al-Qaeda’s arm in Southeast Asia, Marwan fled to the Philippines in 2003, according to the US, to evade a regional crackdown and is one of the last surviving members of his group. One by one, his compatriots were tracked down and neutralized by authorities: Azahari Husin, the expert Malaysian bomb maker who allegedly trained Marwan; Dulmatin, who fled to the Philippines around the same time as Marwan, killed by Indonesian authorities when he returned home; and Umar Patek, who left the Philippines and was captured in Abbottabad, Pakistan (shortly before Osama bin Laden was killed in the same city) before being extradited to prison in Indonesia.” – Rappler.com