4 soldiers dead, Maute leader Abu Dar believed killed in Lanao clash

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Metro Manila (CNN Philippines, March 15) — Abu Dar, the elusive leader of the ISIS-linked Maute terror group, is believed to be among the fighters killed in a clash in Lanao del Sur that also left four soldiers dead.

Coronel Romeo Brawner of the 103rd Infantry Brigade told CNN Philippines on Friday that the military now has the suspected body of Abu Dar, based on "revelations of very credible informants."

He said the Philippine National Police's Scene of the Crime Operatives (SOCO) had collected a DNA sample to confirm the body's identity, a process that could take up to a month.

Three other suspected members of the Maute group were killed in Tubaran town Thursday afternoon. Officials said they have recovered one of the bodies while military sources have confirmed that two others were killed.

The government suffered four fatalities from Thursday's hourlong clash. The military has yet to release their names.

Brawner said the heavy fighting between government forces and remnants of the Maute group began Monday, with two militants believed killed. Authorities retrieved one of the bodies.

Abu Dar was among the Maute leaders recorded on video in a planning session that authorities believe was for the attack on Marawi City.

Terrorists stormed Marawi, the capital of Lanao del Sur, on May 23, 2017, triggering a five-month war that killed more than a thousand people, most of them local and foreign militants. The violence displaced nearly 360,000 residents and left the mosque-studded city in ruins.

Malacañang has said the presence of the remaining Maute group members is not a cause for alarm since Mindanao is still under Martial Law and the extremist group has become smaller.