Malaysian militant possibly killed in Philippine raid

2015-01-27 16:17
An armed security officer holds out an image of Zulkifli bin Hir. (Gulf News, Twitter)

An armed security officer holds out an image of Zulkifli bin Hir. (Gulf News, Twitter)

Multimedia   ·   User Galleries   ·   News in Pictures Send us your pictures  ·  Send us your stories

Manila - The Philippines said on Tuesday there was a "high likelihood" a Malaysian militant suspected of being behind the 2002 Bali bombings was killed in a chaotic operation in the country's south that left 44 police dead.

Sunday's offensive against "high-value targets" including Zulkifli bin Hir -- one of the United States's most wanted militants with a $5m bounty on his head -- turned into a bloodbath, with President Benigno Aquino ordering a probe into the incident.

Nearly 400 highly-trained Philippine policemen took part in the operation in the remote southern farming town of Mamasapano to arrest top militants -- including Zulkifli, who is also known as Marwan -- but were ambushed by Islamist fighters.

They managed to escape but strayed into territory controlled by a different militant group, sparking another fire fight.

"There is a high likelihood according to the participants that Marwan was killed in the operations, but this needs confirmation," interior secretary Manuel Roxas told a news conference.

While they failed to recover the body of the main target, "they were able to take pictures, and these pictures will undergo a process to determine whether it was Marwan or not."

Zulkifli, among the United States’ most wanted militants, is a bombmaker for the Jemaah Islamiyah (JI) group which staged the 2002 bombings in Bali that claimed 202 lives, and other deadly attacks in southeast Asia.

A top Malaysian police official on counter-terrorism told the Malay Mail newspaper that Kuala Lumpur was still waiting for information from the Philippine authorities on Zulkifli's fate.

Zulkifli, described by the US state department as a 48-year-old Malaysian militant and a member of JI's central command who had trained as an engineer in the United States, has long been sought by the authorities.

Declarations of his death, however, have proved premature in the past.

In March 2012 Malaysian counter-terror police denied a Philippine military claim that Zulkifli was killed in an air strike.

Police casualties

The potential success of targeting Zulkifli was blighted, though, by the police casualties, and the controversy is already testing the 10-month-old accord intended to end a 40-year insurgency that has claimed tens of thousands of lives.

Out of 392 "special action force" police commandoes who took part in the mission, 44 were killed and 12 others wounded, Roxas said.

The Milf said police did not coordinate the operation as required under the ceasefire accord.

Aquino has ordered an investigation into the Mamasapano incident, and Roxas said the head of the force was relieved of his post pending an inquiry.

According to Roxas, the Philippine police were leaving the area where the operation was taking place when they were ambushed by the Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters (BIFF), a group accused of sheltering Zulkifli.

The police escaped but then strayed into territory controlled by the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (Milf), sparking another firefight, the interior secretary said.

Regional military spokesperson captain Joan Petinglay confirmed press reports that US servicemen aboard a helicopter were seen helping evacuate the wounded police.

But she denied that the Americans had any part in planning the operation.

"They were on the scene on humanitarian grounds," she said.

Small groups of US troops have been rotating through the southern Philippines for years, helping train local forces to hunt extremists.

History of bombings

Philippine authorities have alleged that some of the Bali bombers had fled to the southern Philippines and sought refuge with Muslim rebels waging decades-old armed campaigns against the Manila government.

They also say these militants then trained the Filipino rebels in making improvised explosive devices used in Philippine bombings.

The mainstream 10 000-strong Milf signed a peace treaty with the government in March last year, but the BIFF, a breakaway faction comprised of several hundred gunmen, was not part of the deal.

Zulkifli's group of foreign militants is alleged by the military to have also trained the Abu Sayyaf, a group of Filipino Islamist militants.

The Abu Sayyaf is suspected of being behind a car bomb in the southern city of Zamboanga last Friday that killed two people and wounded 50 others.

Read more on:    milf  |  malaysia  |  philippines  |  security

Join the conversation!

24.com encourages commentary submitted via MyNews24. Contributions of 200 words or more will be considered for publication.

We reserve editorial discretion to decide what will be published.
Read our comments policy for guidelines on contributions.

24.com publishes all comments posted on articles provided that they adhere to our Comments Policy. Should you wish to report a comment for editorial review, please do so by clicking the 'Report Comment' button to the right of each comment.

Comment on this story
0 comments
Comments have been closed for this article.

Inside News24

 
/News

Book flights

Compare, Book, Fly

Traffic Alerts
There are new stories on the homepage. Click here to see them.
 
English
Afrikaans
isiZulu

Hello 

Create Profile

Creating your profile will enable you to submit photos and stories to get published on News24.


Please provide a username for your profile page:

This username must be unique, cannot be edited and will be used in the URL to your profile page across the entire 24.com network.

Settings

Location Settings

News24 allows you to edit the display of certain components based on a location. If you wish to personalise the page based on your preferences, please select a location for each component and click "Submit" in order for the changes to take affect.




Facebook Sign-In

Hi News addict,

Join the News24 Community to be involved in breaking the news.

Log in with Facebook to comment and personalise news, weather and listings.