Roxas confirms death of Marwan; FBI to do more tests
MANILA, Philippines–Additional tests on a biological sample provided by the Philippine government are needed to confirm the death of international terrorist Zulkifli bin Hir, alias “Marwan,” the US Federal Bureau of Investigation said.
President Aquino said last week that Marwan, a bomb expert from the Indonesia-based terrorist group Jemaah Islamiyah, was likely killed in a police operation in Mamasapano town, Maguindanao province, on Jan. 25.
Interior Secretary Mar Roxas took the FBI report as confirmation of Marwan’s death.
“The SAF (Special Action Force) got their man,” Roxas said in a statement.
Roxas said he had received a copy of the FBI report. He said he had instructed Deputy Director General Leonardo Espina, PNP officer in charge, to give copies of the report to the families of the slain SAF commandos.
“This establishes a positive identification of the person neutralized by the SAF as that of the wanted international terrorist [known as] Marwan,” Roxas said.
“We express our deepest condolences to the brave officers of the Special Action Force, who lost their lives attempting to apprehend a dangerous fugitive,” said David Bowdich, assistant director in charge of the FBI Los Angeles office.
Describing the FBI’s partnership with the PNP as “one of the strongest in the world,” Bowdich said the FBI would continue to work with the PNP “to identify, disrupt and dismantle terrorist networks.”
The Philippine government sent to the FBI a DNA sample the commandos had extracted from the suspect killed during the operation, in which 44 officers from the elite SAF of the Philippine National Police were killed in gun battles with Moro guerrillas.
In a statement on Wednesday, the FBI said laboratory tests from the sample sent by the Philippine government showed that it matched with DNA from Marwan’s brother Rahmat bin Hir (Abdhir in FBI records), indicating that the man killed by the SAF commandos in Mamasapano town, Maguindanao, was Marwan.
‘Sample from Marwan’
“Although the results of the DNA examinations do not provide absolute identification, the results do support that the biological sample provided by Philippine authorities came from Marwan,” said Bowdich.
Bowdich said additional tests and analysis were needed “in an effort to fully identify the subject of DNA provided to the FBI.”
The PNP is expected to issue a statement on the DNA test results shortly.
Bowdich said the FBI case against Marwan was one of the many investigations it had conducted in cooperation with the Philippine government.
The United States has offered up to $6 million for the capture of Marwan, a Malaysian-born senior member of the Jemaah Islamiyah, which was blamed for the Oct. 12, 2002, bombing of two nightclubs in Bali, Indonesia, that killed 202 people—88 Australians, 38 Indonesians, 27 Britons, seven Americans, six Swedes and three Danes—and wounded 209 others, mostly foreign tourists.
Marwan fled to the southern Philippines after the Bali bombing and trained members of the al-Qaida-linked terrorist group Abu Sayyaf in bomb-making.
He also instructed guerrillas from the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) in explosives and then trained members of the Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters (BIFF) in bomb-making after the group broke away from the MILF in 2010 over serious disagreements in the handling of peace talks with the government.
PH Embassy informed
The FBI on Wednesday informed the Philippine Embassy in Washington through Police Attaché Jose Gentiles that DNA sample taken by the SAF matched DNA from Rahmat bin Hir.
“Based on preliminary test results, the FBI has evidence that supports the claim that the DNA sample provided by the Government of the Philippines on Jan. 27, 2015, is related to the currently incarcerated subject Rahmat Abdhir,” the FBI said in its report to the embassy, a copy of which was obtained by the Inquirer.
“Furthermore, preliminary testing indicates that Rahmat Abdhir and the DNA sample provided by the Government of the Philippines are consistent with coming from siblings and sharing the same paternal heritage (i.e., the same biological father),” the FBI said.
It said it was through its partnership with the Philippine government that the US agency was able to discover that “Rahmat Abdhir and Zulkifli Abdhir (also known as Marwan) were in fact brothers.”
Rahmat, 51, was arrested in California in 2007 for conspiring to provide material aid to terrorists and giving false information to authorities.
He is held at the Federal Correctional Institution (FCI) in Lompoc, California, not at the US military prison on Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, as earlier reported.
The FCI is described on the US Federal Bureau of Prisons website as a “low security facility” currently holding 1,383 male inmates, including Rahmat, who is registered there as inmate No. 10743-111.
According to his records, Rahmat is due for release on April 18, 2016.
Not in vain
In a statement issued Thursday, Philippine Ambassador to the United States Jose Cuisia Jr. thanked the FBI for sharing the preliminary DNA test results with the Philippines.
“It heartens us to know that the sacrifice of the 44 men who never came back from Mamasapano last week was not in vain,” Cuisia said.
In BIFF territory
It was in BIFF territory—Pidsandawan village in Mamasapano—that the SAF commandos took him down early on Jan. 25.
The SAF commandos were attacked by BIFF guerrillas as they withdrew from the village and a larger SAF blocking force got into gun battles with MILF guerrillas as it moved in to provide cover for the assault team.
The SAF mission was successful, as indicated by the results of the DNA tests in the FBI laboratory in Quantico, Virginia, not Singapore as earlier reported.
But the SAF lost 44 commandos in the operation, sparking widespread public anger that threw in doubt the peace agreement signed by the government and the MILF in March last year.–With a report from Julie M. Aurelio