Philippine troops exhume body of suspected JI militant

Other News Materials 19 February 2008 07:02 (UTC +04:00)

( dpa ) - Philippine marines have exhumed a body suspected to be that of a Jemaah Islamiyah (JI) militant wanted for deadly bombings on the Indonesian resort island of Bali in 2002, officials said Tuesday.

The body was recovered Monday from a gravesite in Panglima Sugala town in Tawi-Tawi province, 1,080 kilometres south of Manila, said marine commandant Major General Ben Dolorfino.

Navy spokesman Lieutenant Ariel Caculitan said there was a "strong possibility" that the body was that of Dulmatin, a bomb expert for the regional terrorist network who has been the subject of a military manhunt in the southern Philippines for the past three years.

Dulmatin and another JI operative wanted for the Bali bombings, Omar Patek, were believed to be hiding in the southern Philippines and working with local al-Qaeda-linked Muslim rebels to train new recruits and launch terrorist attacks.

The exhumed body was brought to nearby Zamboanga City, where DNA tests would be conducted by US Federal Bureau of Investigation experts, Caculitan said.

The United States has offered up to 10 million dollars in cash rewards for information leading to the arrest, prosecution or death of Dulmatin for his alleged role in the Bali bombings that killed more than 200 people, mostly Australian tourists.

Dolorfino said an informant led the troops to the gravesite.

He added that "based on the description of the informant, Dulmatin suffered gunshots in the head, chest and right foot" during a clash with Philippine troops in January.

"Based on our initial findings, the statement of the witness matched with the exhumed results," he said. "This is a big blow to the JI. He is the most wanted personality in the JI."

The JI, tagged as al-Qaeda's arm in South-East Asia, has been blamed for some of the worst terrorist attacks in the region. It is also suspected of having helped local Abu Sayyaf rebels launch attacks in the Philippines.