WASHINGTON – DNA analysis suggests that Philippine authorities have killed one of Southeast Asia’s most wanted terror suspects in a recent clash with Muslim rebels, the FBI said Wednesday.
Philippine President President Benigno Aquino III last week said that the suspect, a Malaysian called Zulkifli bin Hir — best known as Marwan — was apparently killed during a Jan. 25 operation in the southern Philippines in which 44 police commandos died.
But Philippine officials and the FBI have said additional tests are needed to confirm Marwan’s death.
In a statement Wednesday the FBI confirmed that laboratory examiners would conduct “further testing and analysis in an effort to fully identify the subject of DNA provided to the FBI.” The biological sample supplied by the Philippines does not provide absolute identification of the suspect, but “the results do support that the biological sample provided by Philippine authorities came from Marwan,” the FBI added.
The U.S. has offered up to $5 million for Marwan’s capture. He is on the FBI list of most-wanted terrorists and among the last few known surviving militants of his generation of al-Qaida-inspired extremists who survived the anti-terror crackdowns in Asia following the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks in the U.S.
A U.S.-educated engineer, Marwan is believed to have been born in Malaysia’s Muar town in Johor province in 1966. Known as a master bomb-maker, he had more than two dozen aliases and spoke the languages of Malaysia and the Philippines, along with English and Arabic.
Marwan headed a terrorist group called the Kumpulun Mujahidin Malaysia and was a senior member of the Indonesia-based Jemaah Islamiyah terrorist network.
The Jemaah Islamiyah was blamed for the 2002 nightclub bombings that killed 202 people in Bali, Indonesia. Marwan allegedly helped plot numerous bombings and other attacks.
He has proved an elusive suspect. In 2012, the Philippine military announced that Marwan and a Singaporean militant known as Mauwiyah were killed in a U.S.-backed airstrike on Jolo island in the southern Philippines. But Filipino police intelligence officials believed both men survived, and they continued to hunt them.
They have since launched at least two major secret attempts to capture Marwan in the southern Philippines, where according to U.S. authorities, he has been hiding since 2003.
The latest raid on Jan. 25 resulted in the biggest single-day combat loss by Philippines government forces in recent memory after commandos came under intense rebel fire. Unable to carry Marwan’s body, one of the commandos chopped off his finger and another took pictures as proof of his death, according to police officials.
A purported picture of the slain militant circulating in the local media closely resembled Marwan’s profile in wanted posters.