DNA test by FBI confirms it was Hapilon who was killed in Marawi
The US Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) has confirmed that Filipino soldiers had indeed killed Abu Sayyaf leader Isnilon Hapilon, who was the Islamic State (IS) group’s “emir” for Southeast Asia and leader of the militants in their nearly five-month siege of Marawi City.
Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana on Saturday said the FBI reported that “the DNA sample taken from a body recovered by our operating units in Marawi matches that of Isnilon Hapilon.”
Process of verification
“This process of verification is also being conducted on the cadavers of the other terrorists that have been recovered so far,” Lorenzana added.
Army soldiers on Monday killed Hapilon and Omar Maute, a leader of the Maute group that joined the Abu Sayyaf in the attacks in Marawi on May 23.
Hostages who were rescued later that day told soldiers the two men they had killed were Hapilon and Maute.
The following day, President Duterte declared the liberation of the Islamic city, but skirmishes between troops and pro-IS stragglers continue.
According to Lorenzana, FBI agents went to Marawi to get DNA samples from the bodies of those believed to be the terrorist leaders.
Among those awaiting DNA confirmation are Maute and Malaysian Mahmud Ahmad, the suspected financier of the siege and Hapilon’s supposed successor, who was believed to have been killed on Wednesday.
Lorenzana told the Inquirer the FBI did not say where they obtained the DNA that matched the sample taken from Hapilon’s body.
The FBI had also confirmed the identity, through DNA tests, of Malaysian bomb expert Zulkifli bin Hir, popularly known as Marwan, who was killed in the police commando raid in Mamasapano, Maguindanao, in January 2015 that resulted in the death of 44 Special Action Force (SAF) troopers.
Surrender of Hapilon’s cousin
The SAF commandos then were unable to bring Marwan’s body out of the village so they took pictures of him and sliced off his right index finger from which the FBI took DNA samples.
Inquirer sources said Marwan’s DNA matched his brother’s, Rahmat, who is being held at the US detention center in Guantanamo, Cuba, after his arrest in California in 2007 on charges of providing material support to terrorists.
Washington charged Hapilon with abducting and killing American hostages during a kidnapping spree by the Abu Sayyaf in the early 2000s and offered a $5-million reward for his capture.
The confirmation of Hapilon’s death was followed by the surrender on Tuesday of one of his cousins, identified as Ben Salina Sapilin, and eight other Abu Sayyaf members in Basilan.
Col. Edgard Arevalo, public affairs officer of the Armed Forces of the Philippines, said the group also gave up three high-powered firearms to troops from the 74th Infantry Battalion in Al Barka, Basilan.
He said 15 others surrendered last month to the military, which has so far “neutralized” 325 members of the Abu Sayyaf this year, including 124 killed in combat operations.
“The AFP sees the mass surrenders of the Abu Sayyaf as indicator of the weakening proliferation of terrorism and violent extremism in the country, an upshot of the gains in the Marawi operations,” Arevalo said. —WITH A REPORT FROM INQUIRER RESEARCH