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DNA match, as confirmed by FBI, proves Marwan was killed

InterAksyon.com
The online news portal of TV5

(UPDATE 2 - 1:20 p.m.) MANILA - It was Marwan who was killed by a Special Action Force team sent out to arrest the fugitive international terrorist in Mamasapano, Maguindanao on Jan. 25, four reliable sources separately told News5 on Wednesday.

The sources spoke to News5 on the heels of confirmation last Tuesday by an FBI official, Supervising Special Agent Joshua Campbell, that the bureau was conducting laboratory tests on tissue samples from "an unknown person" who was presumably Marwan, as part of US assistance to allies working against terrorism.

On Wednesday afternoon, according to highly reliable News5 sources, the FBI sent a simple message to Philippine authorities: "DNA matched," a signal that the process of verifying whether the sample obtained had indeed belonged to the Malaysian terrorist had been completed.

More detailed confirmation was provided to News5 in a statement from David Bowdich, Assistant Director in Charge of the FBI Los Angeles Field Office. "Although the results of the DNA examinations do not provide absolute identification, the results do support that the biological sample provided by Philippine authorities came from Marwan," said Bowdich.

"Further testing and analysis will be conducted by laboratory examiners in an effort to fully identify the subject of DNA provided to the FBI," he added.

Asked about the US report, acting PNP chief Leonardo Espina said the government will make a statement on the issue shortly.

"Hopefully it will be today," he told a news conference on Thursday.

If confirmed, the death would be a boost for President Benigno Aquino, who has been savagely criticised over the police killings.

According to Bowdich, the FBI’s case against Marwan "is one of many investigations we have conducted in cooperation with our Philippine counterparts.  We express our deepest condolences to the brave officers of the Special Action Force, who lost their lives while attempting to apprehend a dangerous fugitive." The FBI, he stressed, values its partnership with the Philippine National Police, describing it as "among the strongest in the world."

The Bureau, he said, will "continue to work in close cooperation [with PNP] to identify, disrupt, and dismantle terrorist networks."

The SAF had said after the Jan. 25 mission that several of the police commandos had encircled Marwan in a nipa hut in a cornfield in Barangay Tukanalipao, but had to shoot him after he drew his gun. Unable to bring out Marwan's body when the gunshots alerted Marwan's security detail, sparking the prolonged firefight, one of the commandos cut a piece of Marwan's finger, and this is believed to be the sample that Philippine authorities sent to the FBI for DNA tests.

The US authorities had earlier obtained DNA samples from a detained brother of Marwan, or Zulkifli bin Hir. Marwan was the subject of warrants both in the US and the Philippines, while his brother is also in detention at a facility in California (not Guantanamo Bay as earlier reported) for alleged terrorist acts.

It was unclear what sort of sample - hair, skin, or body tissue - was obtained by US authorities from Marwan's brother, but lab test matches using samples from first-degree relatives such as parents-children or siblings are always accorded a high degree of reliability.

Marwan and his Filipino cohort , the bombmaker Abdul Basit Usman, were the targets of a 300-man PNP-SAF mission deployed to the marshy Tukanalipao village at dawn of Jan. 25. The operation has become controversial for allegedly short-circuiting the chain of command and for its lack of coordination between the police and the military, despite the latter's having a big detachment just 4 kms away from the mission site.

Both the Acting PNP chief, Gen. Leonardo Espina, and AFP chief of staff Gen. Gregorio Catapang said they learned of the crucial mission only that same morning, when the SAF team was already in Mamasapano.

The controversy spawned by that miscoordination - blamed for the death of 44 highly trained SAF members including six officers - has spawned at least eight investigations, triggering even calls for President Aquino's resignation, because as commander in chief, he had supposedly kept crucial information between himself and the suspended PNP chief, Gen. Alan Purisima.

Marwan and Usman had been linked to a recent rash of bombings in Mindanao. Marwan, dubbed Southeast Asia's most wanted terrorist, is wanted in several countries for his role in the 2002 Bali bombing that killed over 200 people. (With a report from AFP)

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