Philippines: US DNA tests confirm death of Daesh-linked leader

The Muslim militant leader was believed to have helped lead the 2017 siege of southern Marawi city in the Philippines. (File/AFP)
Updated 14 April 2019
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Philippines: US DNA tests confirm death of Daesh-linked leader

  • An official said the tests confirmed that Owaida Marohombsar was one of four militants killed in a March 14 gunbattle
  • The Philippine military asked US authorities to confirm Marohombsar’s death through DNA tests

MANILA: US DNA tests have confirmed the death of a Muslim militant commander who helped lead the 2017 siege of a city in the southern Philippines and was considered a key Daesh leader in the region, officials said Sunday.
Interior Secretary Eduardo Ano said the tests confirmed that Owaida Marohombsar, who was also known by his nom de guerre Abu Dar, was one of four militants killed in a March 14 gunbattle that also left four soldiers dead near southern Tubaran town in Lanao del Sur province. The Philippine military asked US authorities to confirm Marohombsar’s death through DNA tests.
Marohombsar helped lead the May 23, 2017, siege of Marawi, which troops quelled after five months of ground assaults and airstrikes that left more than 1,100 people, mostly militants, dead and destroyed the mosque-studded city’s commercial and residential districts.
Most leaders of the attack were killed, but Marohombsar survived with a large amount of looted cash and jewelry from Marawi that authorities feared he could use to rebuild the militant’s battered organization and plot new attacks. One regional official, Zia Adiong, said at the time that Marohombsar escaped from Marawi with at least 30 million pesos ($566,000) in stolen money.
But troops hunted the extremist leader and his men down across Lanao.
“This is another milestone in our campaign to finish and defeat Daesh and local terror groups in the country,” Ano said, using an acronym for Daesh.
Ano was the former military chief who supervised the US- and Australian-backed offensive to crush the siege of Marawi, which sparked fears that Daesh was advancing its efforts to establish a foothold in the region.
Marohombsar’s killing will make it harder for Daesh to establish a firm presence in the country’s south, Ano said. The southern Philippines is the homeland of the largely Roman Catholic nation’s minority Muslims and the scene of decades-old Muslim separatist unrest.
“For now, his group is leaderless. We are monitoring who will replace Dar,” Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana told reporters.
A Philippine army brigade commander, Brig. Gen. Romeo Brawner, said troops would pursue the rest of Marohombsar’s remaining fighters, mostly based in Lanao’s hinterlands, not far from Marawi.
Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte placed the country’s south under martial law to bolster efforts by troops to eradicate militants who survived the Marawi fighting and go after their allied groups in other southern provinces like the brutal Abu Sayyaf group in Sulu province.
Marohombsar’s death will likely strengthen the control of Abu Sayyaf leader Hajjan Sawadjaan, who is based in Sulu’s jungles, over a number of Daesh-linked armed groups in the south. Ano has said that Sawadjaan was installed as the new Daesh-aligned leader in the southern Philippines but that Marohombsar’s group was adamant to recognize him as its regional leader.
A Philippine police profile said Marohombsar was reported to have undergone military and explosives training in Afghanistan in 2005 and returned to the south a few years later and established an armed group called the Khilafa Islamiyyah Mindanao.
The group was implicated in the 2013 bombing of a bar in a shopping mall in southern Cagayan de Oro city that left several people dead and wounded.
Several more groups in the south pledged allegiance to Daesh the following years, allowing them to consolidate under the Daesh flag in 2015 and 2016 with then-Abu Sayyaf commander Isnilon Hapilon as their leader and launch the Marawi siege the following year. Hapilon was among the leaders killed by troops in the city.


Amazon strengthens ties with French food retailer Casino

Updated 9 min 5 sec ago
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Amazon strengthens ties with French food retailer Casino

  • The move could re-ignite speculation of a bigger deal later on
  • The extended partnership comes as Casino is selling assets and cutting debt to try to allay investor concerns

PARIS: E-commerce giant Amazon and French retailer Casino are expanding their partnership, with Amazon installing pick-up lockers in Casino stores and more of the French company’s products to be available on Amazon.
The move, which follows an initial co-operation between Casino’s upmarket Monoprix supermarket chain and Amazon in Paris, could re-ignite speculation of a bigger deal later on.
An Amazon spokeswoman said it had a policy of not commenting on market speculation. Amazon’s purchase of bricks-and-mortar US food retailer Whole Foods Market last year has raised speculation it could seek to buy a European food retailer.
The extended partnership comes as Casino is selling assets and cutting debt to try to allay investor concerns over its finances and those of parent company Rallye.
The deal, unveiled on Tuesday, will see Amazon lockers installed in 1,000 locations across France in nine of Casino’s brands, including Monoprix, Monop, Geant, Hyper Casino, Casino Supermarche, Leaderprice, Viva and Spar by the end of the year. The lockers store Amazon products to be picked up by customers.
More Casino-branded products will also be available on Amazon, while Amazon and Monoprix will extend their partnership on Amazon’s Prime Now grocery delivery service outside Paris and into new cities in the next twelve months.
“This announcement represents a new step in strengthening Casino’s omnichannel strategy to always be a little more in the heart of consumers’ lives,” said Casino’s chief executive Jean-Charles Naouri in a statement.
Monoprix, seen by analysts as similar to Whole Foods, started filling orders for subscribers to Amazon’s Prime loyalty program in parts of Paris last September.
This partnership has been closely watched as Monoprix was the first French retailer to agree in March 2018 to sell products via Amazon, causing a stir in the fiercely competitive domestic market.
France is Amazon’s third largest market in Europe, after Britain and Germany. Amazon is the e-commerce leader in France with a market share of 17.3 percent, but its grocery market share stands at just 2 percent, according to Kantar data.
The US group, which has run its Amazon Prime express delivery service in Paris since 2016, has made no secret of its desire to launch a grocery delivery service in France as part of its ambitions to expand in food retail.
But the French supermarket sector has powerful incumbents such as Carrefour and Leclerc, operating at low margins and with a dense network of stores.
Earlier this week, Casino said it would sell 12 Casino hypermarkets and 20 supermarkets to Apollo Global Management in a deal worth up to €470 million ($529 million).