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

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.

Bahraini singer Mo Zowayed: ‘I’m not the sad and tortured type’

Mo Zowayed started singing when he was about 25. (Supplied)
Updated 19 min 24 sec ago

Bahraini singer Mo Zowayed: ‘I’m not the sad and tortured type’

  • The Bahraini singer-songwriter discusses his latest album and keeping busy in lockdown


MANAMA: Mo Zowayed’s email signature bills him as “Singer. Songwriter. Sleeper.” But the sleeping part of his repertoire is clearly not top of the 31-year-old Bahraini’s agenda.

Even in lockdown he’s busy, having recently taken part in an online concert to raise funds for Bahrain Animal Rescue Centre. (“I don’t know what life would be like without dogs and I’d rather not find out,” he says.) There’s another scheduled for the end of May. 

He’s also just gone live with his “Viola Sessions” — a series of five original tunes from his latest album,  “That Good Love,” released in November, captured at a local club — and he’s performing Instagram Live sessions every Saturday afternoon, besides writing a bunch of new material.

His dad is an oud player and his grandfather Mohamed is a respected folk singer. (Supplied)

It’s no surprise Zowayed ended up as a musician. His dad, Yusuf, is an oud player and his grandfather Mohamed is a respected folk singer. His own musical journey, though, began with a spot of bribery. 

“I started when I was 13. I struggled a bit in seventh grade with my math grades. My parents agreed to buy me a guitar if I managed to turn my grades around,” he says. “It was tough, but I did it. I got the guitar.” He’s now an accomplished player of several instruments, including mandolin, banjo, trumpet, ukulele and harmonica.

He didn’t start singing until he was about 25, though. He cites acoustic artists including Jack Johnson, Jason Mraz and Ben Harper as major influences. “I just loved the way that they could express themselves with just a guitar and (vocals). So, I started practicing like crazy,” he says. 

His own musical journey, though, began with a spot of bribery. (Supplied)

Unlike many regional musicians, he was always set on writing and performing his own material, rather than covers. “I’m still surprised when I meet a good musician who doesn’t write their own stuff,” he says. “For me, it’s the most enjoyable part — there’s no feeling like performing a song you’ve written and having some of the audience singing along.”

Zowayed quickly established himself on the Bahrain music scene. “I started by accepting every single gig. I played everywhere — every little dingy venue. There were some well-known bands in Bahrain, but they played a couple shows a year, tops. I just wanted to put myself out there, and I was one of very few people doing that. What makes me happy is that almost every band in Bahrain is doing that now. We’ve got a community of working musicians who are on stage all the time. I love seeing that.”

His work ethic and determination eventually landed him an American tour — something few independent musicians from the Middle East manage to achieve. “I spent months emailing, calling and messaging venues in the US. I must have contacted over 100 venues and festivals. I didn’t give up, even after 50 rejections — no exaggeration. I just kept trying.

He cites acoustic artist Ben Harper as a major influence. (AFP)

“Eventually I was offered a spot at Farmfest in Michigan. That gave me the motivation to keep trying to book shows. We played in Colorado, Michigan, Iowa, Nashville, Alabama and Ohio. It was the most surreal time.”

From there, Zowayed and his “incredible band” The Moonshiners, got offered a support slot for UK star Jools Holland at London’s iconic Royal Albert Hall in 2017. “I just can’t overstate how magical that night was,” he says. In December last year, he and The Moonshiners were back on tour with Holland and played several shows of their own in the UK to support the release of “The Good Love.”

He cites acoustic artist Jason Mraz as a major influence. (AFP)

That album has evolved from the folky roots of Zowayed’s debut EP “New York Times,” partly because he’s playing an electric guitar, but he describes it as a natural progression. 

“I really wanted to make an upbeat record, because that’s the kind of music I’m into these days. I’m a pretty upbeat guy,” he says. “I’m not the sad and tortured type, and I’ve realized that’s okay, I don’t need to be.  As soon as I embraced that, the songs started pouring out. The result is an album that gets me excited every time I hear it.” 

Zowayed’s goal is to be a touring musician, and he recognizes that that could mean leaving the GCC. “It’s simply not possible in the Middle East when it comes to non-Arabic music,” he says. 

But his local fans don’t need to worry just yet. “I’m on a mission to put out as much music and as many videos as I can and play as many shows as possible,” he says. “And I hope to see everyone at a live show once we kick this virus in the behind.”