MANILA — A high-value suspected terrorist linked to Jemaah Islamiyah was “likely” killed during Sunday’s law enforcement operation in Mamasapano, Maguindanao, a Palace official has said.
“On Sunday, 25 January 2015, the PNP Special Action Force (PNP-SAF) conducted a law enforcement operation in Mamasapano, Maguindanao to arrest a high-value suspected terrorist, Zulkifli bin Hir, also known as Marwan, who was allegedly a member of the Markaziyah, Jemaah Islamiyah’s central command,” Communication Secretary Herminio Coloma Jr. said during a press briefing in Malacañang on Monday.
“The PNP-SAF performed this mission with courage and professionalism. Based on latest reports, there is a high likelihood that the primary target, Marwan, has been neutralized,” Coloma added.
He said President Benigno S. Aquino III has instructed Interior Secretary Manuel Roxas and Defense Secretary Voltaire Gazmin to leave for Cotabato to supervise the ongoing operation, along with Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) Chief of Staff General Gregorio Catapang and PNP officer-in-charge Deputy Director General Leonardo Espina.
Coloma further said that according to the AFP, a ceasefire was enforced starting 5 p.m. on Sunday.
“By 7 p.m. last night, the AFP had initiated retrieval operations in coordination with the MILF (Moro Islamic Liberation Front), the international monitoring team and the Joint Coordinating Committee on the Cessation of Hostilities. Retrieval operations are still ongoing,” he said.
Coloma noted that the Department of Social Welfare and Development (DSWD) has been mobilized to give assistance to at least 200 families affected by the ongoing operation in Maguindanao.
In a separate press briefing, the PNP confirmed that some 43 members of the SAF died and 11 were injured during the encounter with members of the MILF.
The police were in the area to arrest Malaysian terror suspect, Marwan, and Filipino bomb-making expert, Abdul Bassit Usman, who have been blamed for terror attacks in Mindanao.
In the same briefing, Secretary Roxas said they would only confirm Marwan’s death once the DNA results are released.
Media reports have quoted Secretary Gazmin as saying that Bassir Usman had escaped during Sunday’s operation.