WASHINGTON (Reuters) - The FBI believes it has identified body matter collected at the scene of a deadly raid in the Philippines last week as belonging to one of its “most wanted terrorists,” Zulkifli bin Hir, also known as Marwan.
The DNA sample showed a link with a known relative of bin Hir’s, said David Bowdich, assistant director in charge of the Los Angeles field office of the Federal Bureau of Investigation.
Although analysts cannot prove with certainty the sample provided by the Philippines belonged to bin Hir or that it came from a deceased person, Bowdich said results “do support” it came from bin Hir.
A source familiar with the testing process said there is believed to be a sibling connection between the sample and DNA from bin Hir’s brother.
The brother, Rahmat bin Hir, is in U.S. custody in a California prison after his arrest in 2007 for conspiracy to provide “material support to terrorists.”
The link between siblings, which match in 50 percent of their DNA, comes close to confirming the sample belonged to the wanted Islamic militant, but does not provide “absolute identification,” said Bowdich.
The FBI had offered $5 million for the arrest of bin Hir, a Malaysian member of the al Qaeda-linked Jemaah Islamiah militant group behind numerous bombing attacks in the Philippines.
The raid to arrest bin Hir and another militant went awry and 44 police commandos were killed in the clash that shattered a three-year ceasefire with Muslim rebels in the south of the country.
Philippine counter-terrorism officials say bin Hir fled to the island of Mindanao in 2000, when the Malaysian government cracked down on Islamist militants after uncovering an al Qaeda-linked organization in Singapore, Malaysia and Indonesia.
Three years ago, the military reported bin Hir died in an air strike, but he surfaced again last year in Mindanao under protection of a Moro Islamic Liberation Front splinter group.
Last month, police confirmed bin Hir’s presence at Pedsandawan village and a plan, code-named Exodus, was launched involving hundred of police commandos.
Noli Talino, acting Special Action Force commander, said the commandos sneaked into Pedsandawan at night and killed bin Hir.
In a eulogy on Jan. 30 for the commandos, Talino said their leader, Getulio Napenas, was at his tactical command post 3 km (1.8 miles) away when he got a text message: “Mike one, Bingo,” meaning that bin Hir had been killed.
Reporting By Julia Edwards; additional reporting by Manuel Mogato and David Brunnstrom; Editing by Mohammad Zargham and Gunna Dickson