Officials in the Philippines on Sunday confirmed the death of Owaida Marohombsar, who went by the nom de guerre of Abu Dar, after DNA tests carried out by US authorities.
Marohombsar was one of few leaders to survive a 2017 attack on the city of Marawi, where he managed to escaped with large amounts of cash looted during the siege. Philippines authorities feared he would use the wealth to rebuild the Dawla Islamiya group, an alliance of pro-Islamic State (IS) fighters.
· Manila confirmed the Islamist leader as one of four insurgents killed in a clash with the Philippines military in March.
· The Philippines hailed the killing as a significant development that would hamper efforts by IS to establish a presence in the region.
Pursuit of remaining fighters
“This is another milestone in our campaign to finish and defeat ISIS and local terror groups in the country,” said Interior Secretary Eduardo Ano, using an acronym of the Islamic State group.
“For now, his group is leaderless. We are monitoring who will replace Dar,” said Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana.
The army’s Brig. Gen. Romeo Brawner said troops would pursue the rest of Marohombsar’s remaining fighters, based not far from Marawi.
Leading figure of resurgence
Marohombsar is believed to have escaped Marawi with a large amount of looted cash and jewelry. Regional official Zia Adiong estimated at the time that Marohombsar got away from Marawi with at least 30 million pesos ($580,000; €510,000) in stolen money.
According to a Philippine police profile, Marohombsar, a native of the Lanao del Sur region which includes Marawi, underwent military and explosives training in Afghanistan in 2005.
Read more: Will Mindanao referendum bring peace to Philippines’ restive region?
He returned to the southern Philippines a few years later and established an armed
group called the Khilafa Islamiyyah Mindanao.
Months-long urban battle
The Philippines government has signed a peace deal with the largest Muslim rebel group in the country, the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF).
The agreement has this year seen Muslim fighters become administrators of their own five-province autonomous region. The southern Philippines is home to most of the Roman Catholic nation’s minority Muslims.
Remants of the MILF armed group, the Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters, who earlier broke away from the main group, were responsible for the attack on Marawi.
Dawla Islamiya launched its attack on Marawi in May 2017 and fought within and around the city for five months. The assault was quelled after months of ground attacks and air strikes by the military.
Among the Islamist leaders killed was Isnilon Hapilon, IS’s annointed “emir” in Southeast Asia.
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rc/jlw (Reuters, AP, dpa, AFP)