Philippine military admits Islamist bomb maker was not killed in 2012
The Philippine military yesterday admitted that one of Southeast Asia's top Islamic militants was alive, more than two years after jubilantly declaring he had been killed in a US-backed air strike.
Zulkifli bin Abdul Hir, alias Marwan, a Malaysian bomb maker with a US$5-million American bounty on his head, was roaming the southern Philippines, senior military officials said.
"He is alive and we continue to monitor him," Lieutenant Colonel Ramon Zagala said.
He was commenting after the leak of a police report into the June capture of Khair Mundos, a commander with the al-Qaeda-linked militant group Abu Sayyaf.
Mundos had told investigators that he met Marwan last year at a camp of the Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Movement, a hard-line separatist group, in Maguindanao province.
He said Marwan was with a foreign militant called Amin Baco and a Singaporean militant named Muhamda Ali, who uses the guerilla name Muawiyah. Muawiyah was also believed to have been killed in the same air strike that killed Marwan, along with a Filipino Abu Sayyaf leader.
Philippine military chiefs said in February 2012 that they were among 15 Abu Sayyaf and Jemaah Islamiah members killed in the air strike on the southern island of Jolo.
Soon after, Malaysia expressed doubts about the claimed killings, but Manila insisted the men were dead.
Zagala said yesterday that the Philippine military never said Zulkifli had definitely been killed.
Zagala declined to answer further questions about the case, such as whether the other two top militants were also alive.