KUALA LUMPUR:A MALAYSIAN militant thought to have been killed in an air strike two years ago is alive and actively training recruits.
Zulkifli Abdhir, who once headed Kumpulan Mujahidin Malaysia (KMM) and was a member of Jemaah Islamiyah’s (JI) central command, is back on the local authorities’ most wanted terrorist list. Intelligence agencies believe he is now an operative of the Abu Sayyaf militant group. Zulkifli is also high on the United States’ Federal Bureau of Investigations (FBI) most wanted list.
Intelligence sources said the Muar-born bomb expert, who is also known by his nom de guerre Marwan, is believed to be a principal asset to the group, which is largely based in Jolo and Basilan in the southern Philippines and had trained a significant number of bombers, including suicide bombers.
They include the new cadre of Malaysian militants who are looking for combat experience before joining militant groups active in Syria and Iraq, including the Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant (Isil).
Sources believe that those who had gone for training at the Abu Sayyaf camps had also participated in the group’s militant and criminal activities.
The Philippine military, following a February 2012 predawn raid on a densely forested area near the town of Parang on Jolo Island, had said it was confident, based on field reports, that Marwan, along with more than a dozen others, including the group’s high-profile figures, had been killed.
Security analysts, however, had cast doubt over the success of the raid, saying the conclusion was made based on field reports and that there was no confirmation of their identities. Their bodies, including that of Marwan’s, who was trained as an engineer in the US, were never recovered.
“We can confirm that he is very much alive and is passing on his knowledge and technical know-how at the Abu Sayyaf base.
“He is not as dead as is widely thought… just well-hidden.
“Many up and coming terrorists and militants have gained immensely from his tutelage,” the sources revealed.
This revelation to the New Straits Times, came as the authorities are picking up more and more militants bound for Syria, including several who had just returned from the al-Qaeda-linked group’s two-month training programme in the southern Philippines.
The sources revealed that these militants were required to pay a significant amount in fees for the training that would provide them with the skills and confidence needed in battle.
Meanwhile, Bukit Aman sources told the NST that the federal police had their finger on the pulse of not only newly emerging terror threats but members of militant groups initially thought to be defunct. These include remnants of KMM and JI.
“The concern is that when the beliefs and ideologies that they subscribe to are so deeply ingrained, there is always the likelihood of some of them making a comeback to pursue their disrupted aims,” the source said, revealing that Marwan’s brother-in-law, Taufik Abdul Halim, who is serving time in Indonesia, is about to be released soon.
He was caught when he tried to set off a bomb at Plaza Atrium in Jakarta in 2001. He lost part of his right leg when the bomb exploded prematurely.
Marwan, who is also known to his comrades as Musa, was a protege of JI bomb expert Dr Azahari Hussin, a Malaysian killed by an Indonesian anti-terrorism unit on Nov 9, 2005. The 48-year-old, who was wanted for more than a decade, had a RM15 million bounty on his head.
He was wanted for his role in leading KMM in a Southern Bank robbery in Petaling Jaya in May 2001, the murder of Lunas assemblyman Dr Joe Fernandez and the bombing of a Hindu temple in Pudu, both in 2000.
He then fled to Indonesia, where he was believed to be involved in the Bali bombing in 2002, which claimed more than 200 lives.
It is understood that he had hid in the Southern Philippines in 2003, where he was allegedly involved in the bombing of several American interests and military bases there.