Filepix shows a fire following an alleged explosion from a homemade bomb at a main road of Cotabato City, southern Philippines on Aug 5, 2013.
PETALING JAYA: Malaysian terror leader Zulkifli bin Hir, better known as Marwan, is suspected to be the mastermind behind a series of recent bomb attacks in Maguindanao region in southern Philippines.
With a US$5mil (RM15mil) bounty on his head, Marwan, who was once presumed killed in a military air strike in Jolo last year, is reported to be hiding out with a breakaway Moro rebel group which has claimed responsibility for the bombings.
Marwan, a leader of Jemaah Islamiyah with direct links to global terror network of Al-Qadea and listed by FBI as one of the most wanted terrorist in the world, is believed to be together with another Indonesian JI operative.
The Philippines Daily Inquirer quoted Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) spokesman Von Al Haq as saying that Marwan was coddled by the breakaway Moro group led by Ameril Umra Kato who is opposing the Moro peace deal.
Kato founded the Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Movement whose armed wing, the Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters (BIFF), was involved in recent attacks on government security forces in Maguindanao, including a roadside bomb attack in Datu Piang town that wounded seven soldiers on Wednesday.
Al Haq said Marwan might have played a role in the Aug 5 bombing in Cotabato City that killed eight people and wounded nearly 30 others.
National Security Adviser Cesar Garcia also said that the Cotabato City blast had similarities to previous attacks perpetrated by Marwan.
“That’s what we got on the ground. He’s hiding among BIFF members. We also got feedback from residents near BIFF camps,” Al Haq said.
Marwan has been monitored since 2003 when he was hiding out with Abu Sayyaf bandits in Jolo and Basilan islands off Zamboanga city but later moved to the MILF area of operation in central Mindanao.
The Philippines Daily Inquirer also quoted an unnamed military source as saying that an Indonesian national was among those killed in a recent military operation against the BIFF in Datu Piang.
Col. Dickson Hermoso, spokesperson for the Philippines military’s 6th Infantry Division, said there was an intelligence report that a JI member had been sighted among Moro rebels in Datu Piang.
But Abu Misry Mama, a spokesperson for the BIFF, denied his group had ties with Marwan or any Jemaah Islamiyah member.
Born in Muar in 1966, Marwn was a telecommunications engineer trained in the United States.
He was believed to be the initially the head of the Kumpulan Mujahidin Malaysia (KMM) and was a protege of JI bomb expert Dr Azahari Hussin, a Malaysian killed by an Indonesian anti-terrorism unit on Nov 9, 2005.
He was wanted for his role in leading KMM in a Southern Bank robbery in Petaling Jaya in May 2001, and the murder of Lunas assemblyman Dr Joe Fernandez and the bombing of a Hindu temple in Pudu, both in 2000.
He fled to Indonesia where he was believed to be involved in the Bali bombing in 2002, which claimed more than 200 lives. It is thought that he then escaped to Jolo Island in Southern Philippines in 2003.