Philippines Trying to Confirm Death of Southeast Asia's Most-Wanted Terrorist

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There are reports from the Philippines that government forces killed Zulkifli bin Hir, a man with links to Al Qaeda, for whom the United States posted a $5 million bounty. Top Filipino military officials are claiming they killed bin Hir and other militants in a predawn raid in the town of Parang on Thursday morning--a killing that could land someone(s) the $5 million reward posted by the U.S. government. 

A high-ranking colonel has already voiced his confidence in the killings, even before the bodies had been identified. But bin Hir's high profile and that giant reward are working against officials, leading to some skepticism about the initial field reports and anonymous sources coming out of the woodwork. As the AP notes, there are now conflicting reports about the deaths.

Security analysts in the region have their reasons for skepticism. Apparently bin Hir's Abu Sayyef terrorist group reportedly took the the bodies of the dead with them. "Our sources say that government security forces are still trying to validate the identity of those killed, as the military could not immediately recover the bodies from the forested area,” Mars Buan, a security analyst told The New York Times. Bin Hir is considered to be the senior leader of the Jemaah Islamiyah terrorism network, a regional network with links to the Abu Sayyef and Al Qaeda terrorist groups, making him, as the AP puts it,  "Southeast Asia's most-wanted terrorist."  But even though bin Hir has the ominous title and a gigantic U.S. bounty on his head, Buan said his death might not weaken the terror groups. "When high-profile figures have been killed in the past, you still have the Abu Sayyaf operating," said an analyst. "As to whether or not this is a significant blow to the group, that would be an extremely difficult judgment to make at this point". 

This article is from the archive of our partner The Wire.