FBI confirms death of Isnilon Hapilon in Marawi

In this photo released by the 4th Civil Relations Group, Civil Relations Service Armed Forces of the Philippines, Philippine military chief Gen. Eduardo Ano holds pictures of dead militant leaders during a press conference at a military camp in Marawi, southern Philippines on Monday, Oct. 16, 2017. The last two surviving leaders of a deadly siege in the southern Philippines, including a top Asian terror suspect, were killed Monday in a push by thousands of troops to retake the last pocket of Marawi city still held by pro-Islamic State militants, top security officials said. Officials said that Isnilon Hapilon, who is listed among the FBI's most-wanted terror suspects, and Omarkhayam Maute were killed in a gunbattle and their bodies were found Monday in Marawi. (4th Civil Relations Group, Civil Relations Service Armed Forces of the Philippines via AP)
Updated 21 October 2017
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FBI confirms death of Isnilon Hapilon in Marawi

MANILA: The US Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) has confirmed the death of Isnilon Hapilon, Daesh’s designated emir in Southeast Asia, in a dawn military assault last Monday in Marawi City.
Hapilon, a US-designated terrorist, was a senior leader of the Abu Sayyaf Group (ASG). The FBI “has confirmed that the DNA sample taken from a body recovered by our operating units in Marawi matches that of Isnilon Hapilon,” Philippine Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana said Saturday.
“This process of verification is also being conducted on the cadavers of the other terrorists that have been recovered so far.”
Lamont Siller, the FBI’s legal attaché at the US Embassy in Manila, confirmed the news. “Yes that’s correct,” he told Arab News.
Siller said the FBI is still working to confirm the death of Omar Maute, who along with his brother Abdullah formed the group that attacked and held parts of Marawi City since May 23.
The military earlier announced the killing of Hapilon and Omar as government forces made a final push to reclaim Marawi and end the nearly five-month siege of the country’s only Islamic city by the Daesh-backed Maute group.
Hapilon is said to have served in several senior positions in the ASG since at least 1997. The ASG has a reputation for brutality, including beheading its kidnap victims.
He gained international notoriety in 2001 for his involvement in the abduction of 20 tourists — including three Americans identified as Guillermo Sobero, and Martin and Gracia Burnham, a missionary couple — from the Dos Palmas resort in Palawan.
Sobero was beheaded as a “birthday present” for then-Philippine President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo.
Martin died in the crossfire during a rescue attempt by Philippine troops in June 2002. Gracia was injured, but was rescued and repatriated to the US.
According to information from the US Department of Justice, Hapilon was indicted in the District of Columbia for his alleged involvement in terrorist acts against American and other foreign nationals in and around the Philippines. A $5-million bounty was placed on his head.
In 2014, Hapilon and his faction pledged allegiance to Daesh, but it was not until 2016 that he was acknowledged by the terrorist organization as its leader in Southeast Asia.
Daesh reportedly made direct contact with Hapilon in late 2016, instructing him to find an area to establish a caliphate in the southern Philippines.
On Wednesday, the military said Hapilon and Omar were trying to escape war-torn Marawi and abandon their own men when they were killed by government troops. Omar was killed by a sniper headshot, and Hapilon by three bullets to his chest.
They led the Marawi siege, which left more than 1,000 people dead, including 897 militants, 47 civilians and 164 government troops. More than 350,000 residents have been displaced.
One day after the deaths of Hapilon and Omar, President Rodrigo Duterte declared Marawi City free of terrorists. Despite this, operations continue to flush out terrorists in the city.
On Wednesday night, another high-value target, Malaysia’s most wanted terrorist Dr. Mahmud Ahmad, was killed by government forces.
Ahmad, whose body has yet to be recovered, had been touted as a possible successor to Hapilon as Daesh’s emir in Southeast Asia.
Experts say Daesh has suffered a major setback in East Asia with the deaths of Hapilon and Omar.
“It’s a huge blow to Daesh... and any dreams it has of establishing a caliphate here,” Steve Cutler, an international security analyst and former head of the FBI in Manila, told Arab News. “Their replacements won’t be the charismatic leaders of the caliber of these two.”
But political analyst Ramon Casiple told Arab News that their deaths are a “temporary setback for Daesh” that will not stop it from pursuing its agenda.
“Daesh is a regional organization,” Casiple said, adding that the loss of Hapilon and Omar does not mean it has no more supporters or sympathizers in the Philippines.


Man accused of killing tourist appears in New Zealand court

A police officer investigating the murder of British tourist Grace Millane stands at a crime scene along a section of Scenic Drive in the Waitakere Ranges outside Auckland, New Zealand, Sunday, Dec. 9, 2018. (AP)
Updated 10 December 2018
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Man accused of killing tourist appears in New Zealand court

  • Before she vanished, Millane had been staying at a backpacker hostel in Auckland and left some of her belongings there

WELLINGTON, New Zealand: A man accused of killing 22-year-old British tourist Grace Millane made his first appearance in a New Zealand court Monday.
The 26-year-old man stared at the ground while a judge addressed him during the brief appearance at the Auckland District Court. The man has not yet entered a plea on murder charges and the court has temporarily blocked his name from being published.
Millane’s father, David Millane, traveled to New Zealand last week after his daughter vanished, and Judge Evangelos Thomas addressed him and other family members.
“I don’t know what to say to you at this time, but your grief must be desperate,” he said, according to television station Three. “We all hope justice will be fair and swift and ultimately bring you some peace.”
The case has riveted people both in Britain and New Zealand.
Described by her father as fun-loving and family-oriented, Millane had been traveling in New Zealand as part of a planned yearlong trip abroad that began in Peru. She went missing Dec. 1 and failed to get in touch with her family on her birthday the next day, or on the days that followed, which alarmed them.
Before she vanished, Millane had been staying at a backpacker hostel in Auckland and left some of her belongings there. Detective Inspector Scott Beard said she met a man for a couple of hours in the evening before surveillance cameras showed them entering the CityLife hotel at about 9:40 p.m.
A week after Millane disappeared, police detained a man for questioning and later charged him with murder.
On Sunday, police found a body they believe is that of Millane in a forested area about 10 meters (33 feet) from the side of the road in the Waitakere Ranges near Auckland. Police believe Millane’s body was taken to the area in a rental car that was later left in the town of Taupo.
The suspect’s lawyer, Ian Brookie, applied on Monday for name suppression on the basis his client needed it for a fair trial, an argument that Judge Thomas rejected on the basis of open justice. Brookie appealed, triggering the man’s name to be temporarily suppressed.
The man is scheduled to make his next court appearance Jan. 23.