8 DEAD IN LANAO SUR CLASH
MARAWI CITY--Four soldiers and four militants belonging to the Islamic State-linked Dawlah Islamiya (DI) group were killed in a two-day clash with government troops in the Lanao del Sur town of Tubaran, an official said Saturday.
Col. Romeo Brawner, Jr., commander of the Army's 103rd Infantry Brigade, said the remains of the two dead DI members were retrieved on Friday following the encounter that began on Thursday.
Brawner said two soldiers were also wounded during the two-day encounter.
One of the recovered bodies from the militants' side is believed to be that Owayda Benito Marohomsar--also known as Abu Dar, the group's leader, Brawner said.
Abu Dar is believed to be the successor to the leadership of ISIS-Philippines and ISIS-Southeast Asia following the death of the self-declared ISIS emir Isnilon Hapilon in 2017 during the Marawi Siege.
Brawner said they are now validating whether one of the casualties is Abu Dar.
"His face is a little bit deformed from a gunshot wound so there were doubts that this is Abu Dar; but there were signs. For instance, Dar's colleagues who have earlier surrendered said he had a scar on the face as his distinguishing feature," Brawner added.
Brawner said Abu Dar's former followers also testified that he has wound on the back, which he got during an encounter in January.
"According to his colleagues, he was hit at the back. When we verified, he (Dar) really has a scar. Also, we retrieved a backpack from the dead body believed to be Abu Dar and it contains a caliber .45 pistol, cameras, and several cellphones. According to our informants, only Abu Dar could have possession of these materials," Brawner said.
The military official said they have already submitted DNA samples to the Scene of the Crime Operation (SOCO)members to validate the identity of the cadaver. It would take at least a month of waiting for them for the results, he added.
Should the remains proved to be Abu Dar, Brawner said he sees the downfall of DI in Lanao provinces.
"It could mean the end of Dawlah Islamiya in Lanao because they are leader-centric," he said.
Brawner said he believes Abu Dar's sub-leader, known only as Abu Zacharia, will eventually surrender "because the military continues its pursuit operations even if the combat operation has been terminated on Friday."
Meanwhile, the Lanao del Sur provincial government said it has already provided relief assistance to more than 200 families that fled to evacuation centers in the towns of Tubaran and Pagayawan following the firefight.
Brawner said the residents may now go back home "because the government forces are on top and in control of the situation."
Col. Madzgani Mukaram, Lanao del Sur Provincial Police Office director, called on the residents to report suspicious persons or group of persons so that government forces can act swiftly.
Mukaram said the terrorists are now splintered into smaller groups to avoid being detected by government forces. (PNA)