The Armed Forces on Monday admitted that Malaysian Jemaah Islamiyah operative Zulkifli bin Hir alias Marwan escaped a military air strike in 2012, contrary to its previous claim.

Then AFP chief Gen. Jessie Dellosa did not endorse the release of the reward on the Malaysian bomb expert’s head “because there was a validated report that Marwan was able to escape unharmed,” AFP public affairs chief Lt. Col. Harold Cabunoc said.

Marwan — for whose capture the U.S. government offers a whopping US$5 million — was reported by the AFP as killed after Air Force planes dropped bombs on Brgy. Duyan Kabao, Parang, Sulu, on February 2, 2012.

“The AFP announced the death of Marwan in February 2012 based on the existing intelligence data during that time,” Cabunoc said.

Cabunoc’s remarks came amid reports that Marwan had indeed been killed in the operation by members of the PNP Special Action Force (SAF) in Mamasapano, Maguindanao, last January 25.

Forty-four SAF members were killed in a clash with members of the Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters (BIFF) and Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) as they withdrew from Marwan’s hideout.

“The DNA testing that is currently undertaken will prove his (Marwan) reported death in Mamasapano,” Cabunoc said. (John Roson)

– end –