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Moro rebels said to be harboring foreign terrorists

Ameril Umbra Kato, seated, the commander of Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters, is interviewed by the media inside his rebel stronghold in Maguindanao. The BIFF is said to be harboring Zulkifli bin Hir, a member of the Southeast Asian terror group Jemaah Islamiyah. AP FILE PHOTO

SULTAN KUDARAT, Maguindanao—A Malaysian wanted by the US government for alleged involvement in bombings and other terror activities across Southeast Asia has been hiding with former members of the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) in this province, a senior Moro leader said Thursday.

Another source, meanwhile, said a member of the Southeast Asian terror group Jemaah Islamiyah was also hiding in the province.

Von Al Haq, MILF spokesman, said in a phone interview that Zulkifli bin Hir, also known as Marwan, was with the armed group led by Ameril Umra Kato.

Kato, formerly with the MILF’s 105th Base Command, bolted the rebel group over serious disagreements with other leaders on the conduct of the peace negotiations with the government.

He founded the Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Movement, whose armed wing, the Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters (BIFF), has been involved in recent attacks on government forces in Maguindanao—including the Aug. 7 roadside bombing in Datu Piang town that wounded seven soldiers.

As for Marwan, Al Haq said he may have played a role in the Aug. 5 bombing in Cotabato City that killed eight people and wounded nearly 30 others.


Earlier, National Security Adviser Cesar Garcia told a television interviewer that the Cotabato blast had similarities to previous attacks perpetrated by Marwan.

“That’s what we got on the ground. He’s hiding with BIFF members. We also got feedback from residents near BIFF camps,” he said.

Marwan has been monitored in the country since 2003 and was reported to be hiding among Abu Sayyaf bandits in Sulu.

Last year, a military report said he had moved to central Mindanao, where the MILF operates. The MILF is currently wrapping up peace negotiations with the government after decades of a secessionist war.

Marwan has a $5-million bounty on his head, dead or alive, from the US Federal Bureau of Investigation.

Meanwhile, a military source, who refused to be named because he was not authorized to release highly classified information to the media, said an Indonesian national was among those killed in a recent military offensive against the BIFF in Datu Piang.—Jeoffrey Maitem, Inquirer Mindanao

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Tags: foreign terrorists , Malaysia , Marwan , Moro Insurgency , Philippines , Zulkifli bin Hir

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