Int’l terrorist Marwan a US-trained engineer
MANILA, Philippines–Who was Zulkifli bin Hir?
Drowned in the noise of public anger over the deaths of 44 elite commandos from the police Special Action Force (SAF) was the successful mission to take down Zulkifli, an international terrorist better known as Marwan.
The Inquirer obtained intelligence information detailing the criminal background of Marwan, showing how dangerous he was until the SAF commandos killed him in his hideout in Pidsandawan village in remote Mamasapano town, Maguindanao province, on Jan. 25.
Marwan was believed to be 30-35 years old. He was a US-trained engineer and was among the last few known militants of his generation of
al-Qaida-inspired extremists who survived the antiterror crackdowns in Asia following the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks on New York and Washington.
Known as a master bomb maker, Marwan was skilled in evading capture. He had more than two dozen aliases and spoke the languages of Malaysia and the Philippines, along with English and Arabic.
Aside from a $6-million reward offered by the United States, the Philippine government also had a P7.4-million reward for information that would lead to his arrest.
Jemaah Islamiyah links
He had been in the Philippines since 2001 and trained members of the local terrorist group Abu Sayyaf in bomb-making.
Marwan was the alleged head of Kumpulun Mujahidin Malaysia (KMM) terrorist organization and a senior member of the Indonesia-based,
al-Qaida-linked terrorist group Jemaah Islamiyah (JI).
He was believed to be involved in the JI bombing of two nightclubs in Bali, Indonesia, that killed 202 people, mostly Australian tourists, on Oct. 12, 2002.
Marwan was reported to have fled to the southern Philippines after the bombing and sought refuge in Central Mindanao.
In 2005, Marwan and other foreign militants trained members of the local terrorist group Abu Sayyaf. He became associated with leaders of the group, including Khadaffy Janjalani, Raddulan Sahiron, Yaser Igasan and Jumdail Gumbahali, also known as Dok Abu.
Marwan was among those who survived a US-backed military air strike in Jolo on Feb. 2, 2012, that killed Gumbahali and seven of his followers.
Together with his Singaporean associate Muawiya, he fled to Patikul town, Sulu province, after the air strike and then moved to Maguindanao, where he joined the group of Abdul Basit Usman, a bomb expert who belonged to the Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters (BIFF).
Allegiance to IS
Sometime in 2014, Marwan, together with Usman and other guerrillas from the BIFF, pledged allegiance to the Islamic State (IS), the Middle East jihadist group that had seized swaths of Syria and Iraq.
Marwan was also a member of the Justice Islamic Movement and a former member of the Special Operations Group of the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF). He maintained a training camp in Dulangan in Butig town, Lanao del Sur province, where he instructed MILF members in bomb-making.
He was also an adviser to the Khilafah Islamiyah Mindanao.
Marwan’s chief expertise was explosives, but he was also adept at heavy weapons, artillery and map reading.
In 2002, he attempted to ship a ton of explosives and 17 M-16 rifles to Indonesia, but the cargo was intercepted in Labangal, General Santos City.
Marwan served as conduit for funds from then JI operations chief Riduan Isamudin, alias “Hambali.” The funds were used in JI’s bomb attacks in the Philippines called “Soccer Games.”
His younger brother, Taufik bin Abdul Halim, known as Dany, was a suspect in the 2001 bomb attack on the Jakarta Atrium Mall. Taufik is detained in Indonesia.
Attacks in PH
Marwan was involved in several deadly bomb attacks and other crimes in the Philippines, including the bombings of a business establishment in Kidapawan City, North Cotabato province, and an LBC branch in Cotabato City in 2007.
He also took part in the kidnapping of International Committee of the Red Cross volunteer Eugenio Vagni in 2008 and in a foiled robbery of a Land Bank of the Philippines branch in Basilan province.
Marwan was believed to be the mastermind of an attack on Isabela town, Basilan, on April 3, 2010, where three Marine soldiers and three civilians were killed. Six Abu Sayyaf members, including Marwan’s brother-in-law, known only as Abu Tarik, were killed in the fighting.
Marwan was also behind a bombing in Basilan in February 2010 and the bombing of Max Andrea Hotel in Cagayan de Oro City in October 2012.
Even before the Jan. 25 raid on Mamasapano, SAF commandos tried but failed to capture Marwan near the corn-growing community last year. Military officials have long suspected that Marwan eluded arrest by taking cover near rebel strongholds.–With a report from AP