Commentary: Marines say it was Dulmatin
General Santos City (29 February) -- Members of the Philippine Marines who penetrated the camp of the armed group tagged in the killing of Catholic priest Rey Roda in Panglima Sugala town in Tawi-tawi province are in high spirits and said they are certain that it was Indonesian terror suspect Dulmatin who died during an encounter on January 31.
Lt. Col. Ruben Candelario, commander of the Force Recon Battalion said they are certain it was Dulmatin, one of the suspects in the Bali, Indonesia bombings in 2002, who died in the clash.
Soldiers showed pictures of the area where Dulmatin and at least 30 supporters were holed up for no less than 25 days leading to the encounter.
Lt. Pacifico Nono, a company commander of the Force Recon, said they are positive that Dulmatin was in the house raided in Sitio Lubok in Panglima Sugala.
Following the 30-minute clash, the armed men withdrew, the military said. They left behind the remains of a suspected Abu Sayyaf commander identified as Wahab Upao.
Civilian informants disclosed later that another suspect was fatally woundd in the firefight.
The soldiers added that two weeks after the clash, they recovered a blood-stained T-shirt which they suspect to be the one Dulmatin was wearing during the encounter.
A day later, troops with the help of residents, found a shallow grave where a body believed to be Dulmatin's was buried.
Lt. Paolo Jose Jandusay, who was among the soldiers who figured in the Sitio Lubon gunbattle, said they are elated since the military had no casualties.
Jandusay was among those who fought a band of Abu Sayyaf bandits in Ungkaya Pukan in Basilan last year. Fifteen of Jandusay's comrades died in the gunbattle.
He said that the discovery of the body believed to be Dulmatin's, even without the confirmation of a DNA test, is enough reason to celebrate.
Philippine officials said the tissue from the exhumed body will be compared with samples taken from Dulmatin's children to establish if it was him.
Indonesia officials have expressed skepticism that the body was Dulmatin's though Indonesian police chief Sutanto said Wednesday that police in the Philippines had asked for Indonesian help to clarify.
"We will work with authorities in the Philippines and will make an effort to check the identity," he told reporters.
The US government has offered a US$10-million bounty for Dulmatin, who was once a senior figure in the Jemaah Islamiyah (JI) movement and is believed to have been hiding in Mindanao for most of the past five years. (MW/PIA SarGen) [top]