Malaysia says terrorist survived Jolo raid

Agence France-Presse

Posted at Mar 16 2012 07:40 PM | Updated as of Mar 17 2012 03:40 AM

KUALA LUMPUR, Malaysia - A Malaysian militant with a $5 million US bounty on his head survived a recent Philippine air strike, a Malaysian counter-terror official said Friday, despite Manila's claims to the contrary.

"We believe Zulkifli bin Abdul Hir, alias Marwan, is still alive," Ayob Khan Mydin Pitchay, deputy head of the Malaysian police force's counter-terrorism unit, told AFP.

Zulkifli, an Islamic militant, is "badly, badly wounded" and in hiding on the southern Philippine island of Jolo, he said.

He cited Malaysian intelligence but declined to give further details.

Last month the Philippine military said three of Southeast Asia's most-wanted terror suspects were killed in the raid on Jolo, which was backed by US intelligence.

It said the dead included Zulkifli, who was trained as an engineer in the United States and who is suspected of providing bomb-making know-how to Southeast Asian terror groups. The United States posted the bounty.

However, the Philippine military has yet to release proof of the kill, with authorities saying bodies were taken away by fellow militants and quickly buried in line with Muslim custom.

Military spokesman Colonel Arnuflo Burgos told AFP the armed forces were awaiting results of DNA tests on tissue samples from the scene.

But he added: "We still maintain that, based on reliable sources on the ground, (Zulkifli)" and the other militants were killed.

Ayob said the 46-year-old Zulkifli was a senior member of the Kumpulan Militant Malaysia, which at one time harboured plans to overthrow the government of Muslim-majority Malaysia and form an Islamic state.

He added that Zulkifli masterminded the bombing of a Hindu temple in 2000 in the capital Kuala Lumpur and the fatal shooting that year of a ruling party politician.

Zulkifli "remains a security threat" because of his explosives knowledge, Ayob said.

The Philippine government has previously declared extremist leaders dead, only for them to turn up alive.

In 2001, then-President Gloria Arroyo announced that Khadaffy Janjalani, a leader of the Abu Sayyaf militant group, had been killed.

He subsequently appeared on television, but was confirmed killed in 2007 in a clash with soldiers.