By Bonita Ermac and Francis Wakefield
ILIGAN CITY – The military believes that Owaidah Marohombsar, alyas Abu Dar and leader of Dawlah Islamiyah Lanao group, was killed in an encounter with government troops in Tubaran, Lanao del Sur Friday (March 15) afternoon.
According to 103rd Infantry (Haribon) Brigade Commander Col. Romeo Brawner, Jr., Dar could be among the four members of the terror group who were slain in the clash that also claimed the lives of four soldiers.
But authorities could not initially make a positive identification of Dar as the face of body, which was said to belong to the Maute Group leader, was badly damaged by gunfire.
“Yung tama niya is sa mukha eh. Medyo disformed yung mukha niya ngayon kaya medyo there was doubt na si Abu Dar (He was hit in the face. His face was deformed that’s why there’s doubt it is Abu Dar) but there were signs,” said Brawner.
“For instance meron syang scar sa mukha and according to yung mga kasamahan niya dati na nandito na sa atin, yung scar na yun ay patunay na ito nga si Abu Dar (For instance, it had a scar on the face. According to his former cohorts, who are already detained, he, too, had a scar to prove that it was Abu Dar),” Brawner added.
He also noted that the unidentified body believed to be Dar bore a scar on the back, another indication that it was the Dawlah Islamiyah leader.
“Sabi rin nila may sugat sa likod dahil dun sa encounter natin last January, tinamaan daw sya ..tinignan namin meron nga (They said he sustained a wound in the back in an encounter with us last January. We looked at it, and the body also had a scar)”, Brawner said.
He also pointed out that troops recovered the clothes, and backpack of the terrorist which contained cash, a .45-caliber pistol, cameras and many cellphones.
“Sabi ng mga informants natin, si Abu Dar lang ang may hawak ng mga ito (Our informants said only Abu Dar can have possession of these things),” Brawner pointed out.
Soldiers also seized firearms, and food stuff from other slain members.
The military likewise estimated that only around 20 Dawlah Islamiyah members left, including one remaining sub-commander identified as Zacharia.
“Itong sa nakita natin, leader centric kasi yung grupong ito. Like when Isnilon Hapilon and Omar Maute were killed, the following day nag declare na si presidente na liberated na ang marawi city (From what we’re seeing, this group is leader centric. That was why the following day after Isnilon Hapilon and Omar Maute were killed, President Duterte announced that Marawi City was liberated),” Brawner said.
Brawner, at the same time, said four soldiers died in the long-drawn encounter which started at 5:04 p.m. Thursday in Barangay Dinaigan when the 49th Infantry Battalion engaged about 10 Maute fighters.
It was believed that while the initial clash lasted for an hour and 30 minutes, this continued until Friday when the body believed to be that of Dar was recovered together with three other Maute fighters.
Soldiers also seized two caliber 5.56 rifles with an M203 Grenade Launcher, a caliber .45 pistol, hand and rifle grenades, pieces of ammunition, and a bandolier.
On March 11, Daesh-inspired terrorists Abu Tahir and Abu Jihad died in the combat operations conducted by the 55th Infantry Battalion in Barangay Calaludan, Pagayawan, Lanao del Sur.
Troops of the 55th IB also seized a carbine rifle from the engaged Maute fighters on Monday.
“We are advancing upon the enemy target with deliberate offensives, hitting and inflicting heavy casualties on Maute fighters,” said Lt. Gen. Arnel Dela Vega, commander of Western Mindanao Command (WestMinCom).
Troops transported the remains of slain soldiers to Iligan City.
“We console with the families of our departed comrades, who fought valiantly and paid the ultimate sacrifice. We lost not only brave warriors but comrades who served the nation with such devotion,” Dela Vega said.