U.S. officials had a $5 million bounty for a Jemaah Islamiyah leader killed in the airstrike
The Malaysian was on the FBI most-wanted list for "providing material support to terrorists"
In past, Philippine officials made premature announcements about fugitives' deaths
The Philippine military said it killed a man who is on the FBI most-wanted terror list and two other senior militants Thursday in a predawn airstrike on a remote southern island.
About 15 militants died in the early morning airstrike on the island province of Sulu, part of the autonomous region in Muslim Mindanao, according to a spokesman for the Philippines armed forces.
The dead included two senior figures in Jemaah Islamiyah and members of the militant group Abu Sayyaf, said Col. Arnulfo Marcelo Burgos, the spokesman.
U.S. officials had a $5 million reward for the capture of Jemaah Islamiyah leader Zulkifli bin Abdul Hir, according to the FBI website.
The Malaysian, also known as Marwan, was on the FBI most-wanted list for “providing material support to terrorists, conspiracy to provide material support to terrorists” and contributing “goods and services” to a global terror network.
Another Jemaah Islamiyah member Mohammad Ali, also known as Muawiyah, and Abu Sayyaf leader Gumbahali Jumdail were also among those killed, according to the spokesman.
The airstrike was a joint effort between the army, air force, the navy and the police and was “very brief but precise,” Burgos said.
The Philippine police are at the scene helping identify the bodies, Burgos said, but added that he didn’t think DNA tests had been conducted yet.
In the past, Philippine officials made premature announcements about the capture and deaths of Indonesian fugitives Dulmatin, who turned up in Indonesia in 2010, and Umar Patek, who was captured in Pakistan last year. Both had fled to the southern Philippines and were reported captured or killed in Mindanao.
The Mindanao group of islands includes a Muslim autonomous region set up in the 1990s to quell armed uprisings by people seeking an independent Muslim homeland in the Philippines, a predominantly Christian country.
The Jemaah Islamiyah terror group first came to international attention when the Bali bombings of October 2002 provided a stark warning of the group’s abilities and its deadly ambitions. Active across much of Southeast Asia, it has close ties with Osama bin Laden’s al Qaeda network.