MANILA - Philippine security officials on Thursday hailed the US Federal Bureau of Investigation's confirmation that a senior Malaysian militant with a $5-million reward on his head was killed in a January raid in Mamasapano, Maguindanao that also left 44 police commandos dead.
In a statement, the FBI said that after a thorough review of forensic data and information obtained from Philippine law enforcement partners, the bureau "has assessed that terrorism subject, Zulkifli Abdhir, also known as 'Marwan,' is deceased and has been removed from the FBI's list of Most Wanted Terrorists."
"We have got our man and (the operation) was a success," Philippine National Police spokesman Chief Superintendent Generoso Cerbo said in response to the FBI confirmation.
"We are glad we can finally erase all doubts about this death. We are now assured that the notorious terrorist has been neutralized," said Philippine military spokesman Brigadier General Joselito Kakilala.
The FBI confirmation provides some validation for the botched raid that plunged President Benigno Aquino's administration into crisis and jeopardized efforts to end a decades-long Muslim separatist insurgency.
Zulkifli was a top militant in the Southeast Asian terror group Jemaah Islamiyah (JI) which is suspected of carrying out the 2002 Bali nightclub bombings which killed 202 people.
The raid claimed the lives of 44 members of the Philippine police Special Action Force (SAF) who were attacked by Muslim gunmen after they raided Zulkifli's hideout on January 25.
The SAF commandos were sent to the troubled southern island of Mindanao get Zulkifli and a senior Filipino militant leader Abdul Basit Usman, who escaped.
The high death toll caused Aquino's approval rating to tumble to its lowest level since he took office in 2010 and prompted questions about the nature of US-Philippines cooperation on military and anti-terror operations.