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.


Indonesia taps into Muslim tourist market with Shariah hotels

Updated 24 min 59 sec ago

Indonesia taps into Muslim tourist market with Shariah hotels

  • Indonesia made top destination for halal tourism in the world in latest report

JAKARTA: With a rising awareness to promote Muslim-friendly travel, the widespread adoption of Shariah-based accommodation is not always successfully put into practice, as Octine Riyantini realized during one of her stays at a hotel that claimed to be Shariah-compliant.

Riyantini has stayed in two Shariah-based hotels in Indonesia and had a good experience with the first one, where she found that hotel staff always greeted guests with the Islamic greeting, had call of prayers blasted from a speaker and provided prayer amenities as well as a Qibla sign in each room. 

“The ambiance was very much Islamic and the hotel itself was clean and well-maintained,” she told Arab News.

She had a different experience with the second one, despite the Shariah label that goes with the hotel’s name in an online hotel reservation website. 

Although they provided a prayer room on each floor, Riyantini said it seemed like it was hastily prepared and a bit spooky, so she and her family chose to pray in their room. Moreover, the hotel was not properly maintained. 

“Maybe they consider their hotel to be Shariah-compliant just because they provide a prayer room on each floor and a Qibla sign in the room, yet the overall ambiance hardly felt like it was Muslim-friendly,” she said. 

“I learned that not all hotels that claimed to be Shariah-based are really compliant to the value. If we have to stay in such a hotel another time, we will have to consider which hotel chain it is associated with,” she said. 

Muslim-friendly travel and tourism in Indonesia continues to rise, with Indonesia named as the number one destination, out of 130 countries, for halal tourism in the world by the Global Muslim Travel Index 2019. 

Service providers have been quick to tap into the growing market, despite the controversy and misconceptions about halal tourism in the world’s largest Muslim-majority country. 

According to a survey conducted by accommodation network operator Airy, 60 percent of Indonesian travelers think that it is important to have Shariah-based accommodation. The figure was consistent with data from the Alvara Research Center, which showed that 64 percent of Indonesian millennials travel and go on holiday at least once a year, providing a market of about 26 million holiday-hunting Muslim millennials. 

Responding to the market demand, Airy in 2016 began offering a segment called Airy Syariah or a Shariah-based accommodation network. 

“Our Airy Syariah properties offer Muslim-friendly accommodation so that guests can stay comfortably and worry-free. The market response has been good and demand for Shariah-based accommodation continues to rise every year. Our occupancy rate so far stands at 40 percent to 70 percent,” Airy vice president for marketing, Ika Paramita, told Arab News. 

Paramita said Airy cooperates with more than 400 Muslim-friendly properties in some 50 cities across Indonesia and it has been growing at a triple-digit rate year-on-year.

“The food and drinks in our properties are halal-certified, and we provide Muslim-friendly amenities. Guests can immediately experience their stay in our Shariah-based properties, where hotel staff uniforms and attitudes conform to Islamic values. Moreover, we validate the marriage status when a couple is checking in,” Paramita said. 

Shariah-compliant accommodation is not new in Indonesia. The Sofyan Hotel chain in Jakarta has implemented the concept in its two properties since 1992 by removing nightclubs, bars and alcoholic drinks from its facilities. 

But the concept does not always appeal to all Muslims in Indonesia. University lecturer Ratna Djumala said she prefers to stay in a conventional hotel to show her children about meeting people of various backgrounds. 

“I want to show my children about diversity and tolerance, especially this coming December when hotels are adorned with Christmas decorations. I want my kids to experience the ambiance, too. A family-friendly hotel doesn’t always have to be a Shariah-based one. What’s important for me is the food has to be halal,” she told Arab News. 

Muslim-friendly travel was valued at $189 billion in 2018 and is estimated to reach $274 billion by 2024, according to the State of Global Islamic Economy Report 2019.