MANILA, Philippines—Philippine police said Saturday that they stand by their statement their anti-terror commandos killed an elusive Malaysian terror suspect wanted by the U.S. after a group claimed that it was the militant’s aide who shot him to death early last year.
The January 2015 killing of Zulkifli bin Hir, also known as Marwan, sparked an outcry because 44 police Special Action Force members were gunned down in the highly secretive assault in southern Mamasapano town when they got drawn into clashes with different rebels.
Outrage over the police deaths stalled a peace deal with a Muslim insurgent group that saw some of its members drawn into the fighting. Washington has offered up to $5 million for information leading to the capture and prosecution of Marwan, who has been linked to bombings and terror attacks in the southern Philippines.
National police spokesman Chief Superintendent Wilben Mayor said police “stand firm” on their position that members of the Special Action Force killed Marwan.
Unless “incontrovertible evidence” is presented showing otherwise, police will not veer away from what has been established by police, government and congressional investigations, Mayor said.
President Benigno Aquino III has said that evidence given to him by the police, including pictures of a police commando cutting a finger of the slain Marwan for DNA tests, disprove speculations that the militant was killed by somebody else.
A group of anti-war advocates told a news conference Friday that it could present civilian witnesses who were involved in a plan hatched with top police officials to kill Marwan in exchange for a huge reward. The witnesses have not testified in any government inquiry.
Jose Agduma, who heads the Awat Partylist group, said the witnesses recruited a Filipino aide of Marwan, Datukan Singgagao, who shot the sleeping militant with an M203 rifle but was later killed as fighting broke out between the approaching police commandos and rebels allied with Marwan. Singgagao’s group allegedly warned the police not to enter deep into the remote hinterland, where Marwan stayed in a hut, because of the dangerous presence of different rebel groups, Agduma said.
Agduma said his group can help authorities exhume Marwan’s body in a still-undisclosed rural area, surrender the rifle used to kill the militant and present key witnesses to prove its claim, which should provide closure to the tragic police deaths.