CAGAYAN DE ORO (MindaNews / 01 June) – When Islamic State-linked leaders Isnilon Hapilon of the Abu Sayyaf and Omar Maute of the Maute Group were killed in the early hours of October 16, 2017, the military announced that Hapilon was felled by three bullets, Omar by one.
But autopsy results obtained by MindaNews from the Philippine National Police’s Regional Crime Laborary Office here showed both were killed by a lone bullet each.
This is the first time that these reports, which also included the autopsy reports of 272 bodies found in Marawi’s ‘Ground Zero,’ were made public.
The 250-hectare, 24-barangay ‘Ground Zero’ was the main battle area between government forces and the groups of Maute and Hapilon in the five-month war in 2017. It is now referred to as the Most Affected Area (MAA).
Police Major Christian Caballes, chief Medico-legal officer in Region said he conducted the autopsy on Isnilon and Omar morning of Oct. 16, 2017, hours after they were killed in the battle with Philippine military in Barangay West Marinaut, Marawi City.
“There was a huge cavity on Hapilon’s body. His chest just caved in,” Caballes said.
He said the chest wound of Hapilon, allegedly the Emir of ISIS Philippines, was consistent with an injury caused “ by a long rifle” but he did not find any fragment of the bullet that killed him.
Caballes said the cause of death was “gunshot wound of the thorax.”
He said the single bullet that killed Maute was “again caused by a long rifle” that entered the left temporal region of the head.
He said the shell exploded, leaving the “ lacerated cerebral hemispheres of the brains exposed.”
Caballes said he also found that Omar had suffered from a bullet wound on his right leg.
“With a wound like that, Omar would have dragged himself or limped in pain during the fighting,” Caballes said.
The death of Hapilon and Maute marked the end of the five-month siege of Marawi City in 2017.
Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana and then Armed Forces of the Philippines Chief of Staff Eduardo Ano announced the death of the two leaders in a hastily called press conference in Camp Ranao, Marawi City on Oct. 16, 2017.
According to Ano, Hapilon and Matue apparently sensed they were about to be surrounded so they dashed to another building at the back.
They were met however by troops supported by an M113A2 armored personnel carrier (APC) which was equipped with Remote Controlled Weapons System which could see through the dark.
Ano said Omar was shot by a sniper while Hapilon was felled by three bullets to his chest.
The next day, October 17, 2017, President Rodrigo Duterte flew to Marawi to declare the country’s lone Islamic City “liberated from the terrorist influence.”
In a statement on October 21, Lorenzana announced that that the United States’ Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) had confirmed that Abu Sayyaf leader Isnilon Hapilon was, indeed, killed in Marawi City, based on DNA test results.
Lorenzana said FBI confirmed that the DNA sample from a body recovered by the Philippine military in the battlefield in Marawi “matches that of Isnilon Hapilon.”
There was no word on a DNA matching with Maute. At the time of his death, Maute’s mother was detained while facing criminal charges. His father was earlier arrested and detained but was rushed to a hospital where he died on August 27, 2017.
On October 23, 2017, exactly five months to the day the siege began, Lorenzana ordered the termination of all combat operations in Marawi City. (Froilan Gallardo / MindaNews)