In this file photo, personnel of the Barira municipal police put up a photo gallery of key members of the Maute terror group along a highway near the border of Lanao del Sur and Maguindanao.
John Unson

Army positive last Maute group leader dead
Roel Pareño ( - March 26, 2019 - 4:38pm

ZAMBOANGA CITY, Philippines — There are strong indicators that an alleged terrorist killed in an encounter with the military this month is the last remaining leader of the Maute group that laid siege to Marawi in 2017, an Army official said.

Col. Romeo Brawner, commander of the Marawi-based 103rd Infantry Brigade, said there is a big possibility that the body the military recovered last week is that of Owaida Marohombsar alias Abu Dar.

"We are just waiting for the result of the DNA test that will definitely tell us that the cadaver that we recovered was that of Abu Dar," Brawner said during a visit to the Western Mindanao Command in Zamboanga City.

RELATED: Maute leader, 3 followers slain in Lanao Sur clash

"But the signs we saw on the cadaver, for example the scars on his arm, on his face, at his back and on his leg are indications that he was the one and that cadaver belongs to Abu Dar," Brawner said.

He said they took pictures of the identifying marks and showed it to Marohombsar's relatives who affirmed it was Abu Dar.
Brawner said Maute-ISIS members who have surrendered or have been captured also agree. 

Brawner said the neutralization of Abu Dar was a result of offensives that began in Sultan Dumalundong in Lanao del Sur in January that saw the capture of a terror camp and training ground in the area.

The military said the latest offensive early this month hit the group of Abu Dar and resulted in the deaths of several Maute members and the recovery of the bodies of four fighters.

Brawner said they believe the bodies belong to Abu Dar, Abu Bilal, Zarkawi, and Abu Tahir, a bomb expert who trained in Maguindanao and who was identified as a henchman of Zulkifli bin Hir, alias Marwan, who was killed in Maguindanao in 2015.

Brawner said Abu Dar, even before he assumed leadership of the Maute group, had been tagged as being behind the bombing of the Limketkai Center in Cagayan de Oro City in 2013.

"Abu Dar was behind the killing of civilians and soldiers who were taken as hostage and was the most feared in Marawi City even before the Maute. So it is very important we get him and we are happy that we already neutralized him and we are hoping very soon we will neutralize the whole group to eliminate the Maute-ISIS," Brawner said.

The military said Abu Dar's supposed sucessor was also killed in the same offensive operation in Lanao del Sur.

Brawner said there are reports Abu Zakaria is Dar's second-in-command. However, reports from the ground also indicate that Abu Zakaria was among those killed in the military operation.

The military is still looking for 15 other Maute members, some of whom have already sent surrender feelers.

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