Manila: The government believes it has dealt a blow to local Daesh-inspired groups after DNA test confirmed the death of one of its leaders.
According to Defence Secretary Delfin Lorenzana, an autopsy conducted by US authorities on the body from one of the fatalities in the March 14 clash between government forces and members of the militant Maute group, confirmed the body belong to Abu Dhar, a militant leader.
Lorenzana said DNA from hair taken from Dhar’s body cross matched with the DNA footprint of that taken from one of his sons.
Abu Dhar, the nom de guerre of Owaydah Mahorombsar, was said to be erstwhile head of the Maute and leader of the Central Mindanao-based group fighting under the black banner of the Islamic fundamentalist Daesh.
He was believed to be the last remaining leader of the group of gunmen that laid siege to Marawi City last May 2017.
It can be recalled that nearly 2,000 people died and close to 300 thousand were displace when Maute brothers, Omarkhayyam and Abdullah Maute, with the help of then Abu Sayyaf leader Isnilon Hapilon, launched actions in Marawi City in a bid to establish a pro-Daesh Islamic caliphate in Southern Philippines. Bitter street fighting and air strikes on militant locations left much of Marawi City in ruins.
The Maute brothers along with Hapilon and foreign militants had hoped to foment an uprising that would spread in other predominantly Muslim southern parts of the country.
The Maute is now leaderless, said Lorenzana.
Lieutenant General Arnel Dela Vega, regional military chief in Western Mindanao said the confirmation of Abu Dhar’s death, the threat from Maute in Lanao is close to being fully eliminated. “With his neutralisation, we are hoping that this would also finally put an end to the Maute-Daesh in Lanao,” he added.
Meanwhile, Task Force Bangon Marawi (TFBM) the government arm tasked in rehabilitating the battered city had been given permission by the military to start clearing debris from the “most affected area (MAA),” of the fighting. This was after government forces removed much of the explosives left from the battle.
According to Secretary Eduardo del Rosario, Housing and Urban Development Coordinating Council executive director and TFBM chair, among the structures that they had scheduled to demolish was the building close to the Bato Ali Mosque.
Militants had holed out in the area and Hapilon and the Maute brothers had made their last stand in the battle area.
Del Rosario said the Department of Social Welfare will be giving livelihood settlement grants to residents of 24 village in the MAA as well as transitory family support package.
Most of the families in the MAA are still living in tents and temporary shelters for almost two years.