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CAGAYAN DE ORO CITY – Security commanders have asked the military for a DNA examination on one of 6 pro-ISIS militants believed to be the emir of the Islamic State in the Philippines who were killed in a massive campaign in the restive South.

Colonel Romeo Brawner, commander of the 103rd Infantry Brigade, said army informants have said that Abu Dar was one of those killed by our soldiers in Tubaran town in Lanao del Sur province. “According to our three informants, one of the slain terrorists was Abu Dar. We already requested the higher headquarters for the DNA test to confirm his neutralization,” he said.

Abu Dar, who was a former commander of the Abu Sayyaf group, had been tagged as behind many terror attacks against civilian and military targets in the Muslim autonomous region. But little information is available on the secluded jihadist leader, whose group had laid siege to Marawi City in 2017 that left hundreds of people dead and wounded, and forced fellow Muslims to flee their homes.

Lieutenant Colonel Edgar Allan Villanueva, commander of the 49th Infantry Battalion, also said that Abu Dar was with a group of armed fighters from Dawlah Islamiya and Maute group numbering about 20 when they clashed with troops. He said 3 militants were slain in that fighting. “During the encounter, Abu Dar was with about twenty of his comrades and we were also able to neutralize three of his cohorts,” he said, adding, they recovered one automatic rifle, a pistol, two grenades and ammunition.

Another group of army soldiers from the 55th Infantry Battalion, also battled Abu Dar’s forces in Pagayawan town and killed two militants who were later identified by their nom de guerre as Abu Tahir and Abu Jihad.

But the military said 6 soldiers also perished in the fierce battles and others wounded. It was not immediately known whether the wounded were the same as those reported by the military as missing-in-action.

Lieutenant General Arnel Dela Vega, the regional military commander, said more soldiers were sent to Lanao del Sur to destroy the remaining militants, but he did not say how many more are still fighting the troops. “Additional troops were deployed to pursue the fleeing terrorists and to ensure the safety and security of the local populace in the area. We also ask for prayers from all peace-loving people of the country for the eternal repose of our heroes and for our wounded soldiers. Your prayers are the most powerful tool for them and for the safety of all those who are still pursuing the enemies,” Dela Vega said.

“We will not stop until we neutralize the remaining terrorists and we dedicate this fight to our fallen comrades. Our soldiers are out there hunting for them ready to fight and die to attain peace in our communities,” he added.

Sporadic fighting is also continuing since March 11 in neighboring Maguindanao province where the 6th Infantry Division claimed to have killed 20 militants from the Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters and among them was a Singaporean terrorist, Muhammad Ali Bin Abd Al Rahman or Muawiya, a notorious jihadist belonging to the Indonesian Jemaah Islamiya and had been a bomb trainer for the Abu Sayyaf group.

It said as many as 20 militants under Abu Turaife were slain in the assaults in Shariff Saydona town. The reports were based on intelligence information, but army commanders claimed to have seen or recovered pieces of body parts of those killed in an area targeted by military bombardments.  Over 100 militants were being pursued by security forces in the province which is also a stronghold of the rebel group Moro Islamic Liberation Front that signed an interim peace deal with Manila in 2014.

The clashes also killed one soldier and wounded at least 7 more. The military’s Joint Task Force Central said air, artillery and ground operation were continuing not only in Shariff Saydona, but also in the towns of Datu Salibo, Mamasapano and Shariff Aguak where the group of pro-ISIS militant commander Salahudin Hassan was scattered.

It was unclear whether the United States or its Special Forces units deployed in the southern Philippines provided combat or technical support to Filipino troops in battling the militants. US forces are still helping train local military forces in fighting terrorism and were instrumental in supplying intelligence to the Filipino troops during the Marawi siege.

The militant groups have been fighting for the establishment of a caliphate in the restive region which is now called Bangsamoro Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao. (Mindanao Examiner)


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