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'Most Wanted' Militant Likely Killed in Philippines Raid

FILE - Zulkifli bin Hir.

The U.S. Federal Bureau of Investigation says DNA evidence appears to confirm Philippine police killed a top militant during a raid on the southern island of Mindanao last month.

Philippine officials have insisted the militant, Zulkifli bin Hir, was killed during a January 25 police raid. The operation resulted in the deaths of 44 police officers and upset a fragile peace process with rebels in the region.

Bin Hir, also known as Marwan, was a member of the Jemaah Islamiah extremist group. He was on the FBI's Most Wanted Terrorists list for his alleged involvement in the 2002 Bali nightclub bombings and other attacks in the Philippines.

DNA evidence collected from the scene of the raid by Philippines authorities appears to be a close match to that of a known relative of bin Hir, the FBI Los Angeles field office said in a statement.

While the statement said the FBI cannot yet say with certainty that the DNA belonged to bin Hir, it stressed the findings do support Manila's claim that the DNA sample came from the militant.

President Benigno Aquino has been criticized for the raid, not only because of the police deaths but because the operation threatened to unravel peace talks with the Moro Islamic Liberation Front, or MILF.

MILF officials say the group's actions were defensive and claimed they were not consulted in advance as required by a joint agreement reached last year.

The MILF and Manila agreed last March to a landmark cease-fire that ended decades of fighting that has killed more than 120,000 people. Further peace talks were supposed to result in a deal of greater autonomy for the mostly Muslim southern region.

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