Tag Archive: Zulkifli bin Hir


An alleged student of slain Malaysian bomb expert Marwan who is himself wanted for carrying out bombings, was arrested in Panaon, Misamis Occidental, Saturday afternoon, a police official said.

Arrested was Abdul Malik Sali, a member of the Al Khobar group, Northern Mindanao regional police director Chief Superintendent Agrimero Cruz said.

Elements of the Panaon Police and the PNP’s anti-terror Special Project: Mindanao Khilafah Islamiyah arrested Sali at a checkpoint along the National Highway around 5:30 p.m., Cruz said in a text message.

Operatives carried out the arrest on warrants for multiple murder with frustrated murder and multiple attempted murder, he said.

Sali is believed to be behind two bombing incidents in Kidapawan City, North Cotabato, and Digos City, Davao del Sur, where several lives were lost, Cruz said.

He is a “member of the Al Khobar terrorist group under the umbrella of the group of Zulkifli bin Hir alias Marwan,” the police official said.

Sali’s arrest came almost two months after Marwan, a suspect in the deadly 2002 bombings in Bali, Indonesia, was killed in a raid by the PNP Special Action Force in Mamasapano, Maguindanao, last January 25.

The raid, however, also cost the lives of 44 SAF members as armed Moro groups ganged up on the police commandos.

In 2008, the Department of Interior and Local Government announced a P400,000 reward for anyone who can help authorities capture Sali, one of the suspects in the bombing of a Metro Shuttle Bus in September 1 that year.

The incident killed at least five people and injured 30 others.

Same bounties were offered for Sali’s fellow bombing suspects Mahir Abu Bakr and Jonaria Mindiba.

Al Khobar is a group of extortionists based in the marshlands of Maguindanao and are responsible for the spate of bombings in Central Mindanao since 2006, according to a statement issued by the PNP in 2013.

The group was allegedly created to support the Southeast Asian terror network Jemaah Islamiyah and other foreign militant jihadist groups.

It was intended to serve as a special unit concentrating on using explosives and carrying out extortion schemes across Cotabato, until it transformed into a kidnap-for-ransom gang and, much later, into an extortion group, according to the police statement. (John Roson)

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Marwan escaped in 2012 — AFP

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)

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The government sacked the commander of the National Police’s Special Action Force (SAF) following the death of more than 40 police commandos in a clash with Muslim armed groups in Mamasapano, Maguindanao, over the weekend.

Interior and Local Government Secretary Mar Roxas and PNP officer-in-charge Deputy Director General Leonardo Espina made the announcement then claimed that they did not recieve prior notice of the elite police unit’s operation, which eventually turned into the bloody clash.

Director Getulio Napeñas was relieved as SAF commander pending the result of an investigation by the PNP, Roxas said in a press briefing in Camp Crame Tuesday.

“He (Napeñas) was given chance to help recover body of his men, but today he was recalled back to Manila,” Roxas added.

Espina said in the same briefing that SAF deputy commander Chief Superintendent Noli Taliño will replace Napeñas, in an officer-in-charge capacity.

“His (Napeñas) administrative relief will pave the way for the start of the board of inquiry, I would like to get to bottom of things,” he said.

The inquiry will be conducted by Directorate for Integrated Police Operations-Western Mindanao head Dir. Edgardo Ingking, Criminal Investigation and Detection Group chief Dir. Benjamin Magalong, and Directorate for Research and Development head Chief Supt. Catalino Rodriguez, Espina said.

Crame ‘not told’ of SAF operation

Roxas and Espina claimed that the DILG and PNP leadership were not informed of Sunday’s SAF operation in Mamasapano — which involved almost a battalion of police commandos in full battle gear — before it was executed.

“No… Ang masasabi natin, hindi ‘yan dumating sa command group,” Roxas said when asked if the operation was cleared with him.

“It did not reach the command group. That’s as far as I can say, everything will be tackled in the board of inquiry… It didn’t reach us,” Espina said for his part.

A total of 392 SAF members from different parts of the country participated in the operation, which targetted Malaysian Jemaah Islamiyah operative Zulkifli bin Hir alias Marwan and Filipino bomb expert Abdul Basit Usman, Roxas said.

“It was a legitimate operation,” Roxas said in a televised press briefing in Maguindanao on Monday afternoon.

Bitter pill

Roxas on Tuesday maintained his careful stance on how the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) — which just concluded peace negotiations with the government last year — was involved in the clash that followed the SAF raid.

As of Tuesday, 44 SAF members were confirmed killed while 12 are injured and 336 are unharmed and accounted for, Roxas said.

“Tuloy ang tiwala at kumpiyansa ng PNP sa peace process na bagamat napakalungkot, matindi ang kapaitan ng pangyayari, ang mas malawak na peace process ay mahalaga at kabahagi ang PNP sa pagsulong ng peace process,” he said.

The government and MILF signed a peace agreement March 2014 and are currently waiting for the approval of the Bangsamoro Basic Law (BBL), which will implement their deal.

Congress’ deliberations on the BBL were suspended until investigations on the clash are completed.

Elements of the SAF were first attacked by members of the Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters (BIFF), then had a “misencounter” with members of the MILF, Roxas explained.

The DILG chief also said Tuesday that investigators still have yet to determine if Marwan, who is wanted by the U.S. government, had indeed been killed in the SAF raid as earlier field reports indicated.

‘Justice’

Despite their toned-down stance, Roxas and Espina vowed to give “justice” to the slain SAF members.

“‘Yung pagbibigay ng katarungan ay sa dalawang paraan – filing ng kaso versus sa mga pumatay sa SAF heroes, kabahagi na nito ‘yung kung may lapses at pananagutin kung meron man, and honors and benefits,” Roxas said.

Espina said full honors, awards, and promotion will be given to the slain police commandos while benefits will be extended to their families.

“I will recommend the highest possible medals to be given — equivalent to a Gold Cross medal — to our fallen heroes. I will also recommend spot promotion of those who died in this operation. Full state honors, benefits will be given,” he said.

Director Rolando Purugganan, head of the Directorate for Comptollership, was tasked to facilitate and ensure the distribution of awards and benefits to the slain policemen and their families, Espina said.

Central Mindanao police take strong stance

While the DILG and PNP leadership kept statements at a low key, the Central Mindanao regional police outrightly condemned the killing of SAF members in Mamasapano.

“The bloodbath brought about by the brutal and cowardly doing of heartless rebel groups was such inimical and condemnable act,” Chief Superintendent Lester Camba, director of the Region 12 police said in a statement.

Camba’s statement came along with one from North Cotabato Gov. Emmylou Mendoza.

“The incident is condemnable, we must not forget the series of bombings that occurred in the province of North Cotabato… Our elite special forces were going after two notorious bomb makers,” the police statement quoted Mendoza as saying.

Marwan and Usman, along with members of the BIFF, are blamed for the recent bombings in North Cotabato and other parts of Central Mindanao.

North Cotabato and Maguindanao share a vast, marshy border where bombing suspects and rebels who conducted attacks in previous years are said to be hiding.

“While we support our peace initiatives, our government troops who set law and maintain order in this civilized society should be respected and not killed,” Mendoza added.

Blast kills 2

As Tuesday wound to a close, a still unidentified type of explosive went off in Pikit, North Cotabato, killing two people.

The explosion occurred near a convenience store along Manuel L. Quezon st., Brgy. Poblacion, around 6:11 p.m., said Capt. Jo-Ann Petinglay, public affairs officer of the Army’s 6th Infantry Division.

Two persons on a motorcycle died on the spot because of the blast, Petinglay said in a text message.

The two are “suspected bombers killed by the premature explosion of the IED (improvised explosive device) they were carrying,” Senior Superintendent Danilo Peralta, director of the North Cotabato provincial police, said in a separate message.

Local police are still trying to identify the fatalities and the type of IED that went off, Peralta said. (John Roson)

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Maguindanao clash toll breaches 40

The number of policemen killed in a clash with Muslim armed groups in Mamasapano, Maguindanao, rose to more than 40 on Monday as authorities discussed repercussions of the fighting, which involved a group engaged in peace negotiations with the government.

An “actual body count” of 49 slain PNP Special Action Force (SAF) members was tallied 11:54 a.m., according to a report from the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao police.

Some of the bodies have brought to the headquarters of the Army’s 6th Infantry Division in Datu Odin Sinsuat town while retrieval operations for others went on in Mamasapano, according to a copy of the report received 1 p.m.

National Police officer-in-charge Deputy Director General Leonardo Espina, in a televised press briefing in Maguindanao later Monday afternoon, said 43 killed SAF members have been accounted for while 11 were injured and one is missing.

Seven of the slain police commandos whose bodies have been recovered were officers, Espina said.

3 civilians hurt, 500 families flee

Meanwhile, the Office of Civil Defense-Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao reported that three civilians were injured while more than 500 families fled because of the fighting.

Tot Panangulon, his wife Samra, and their 8-year-old daughter Sara were reportedly wounded during the encounter, OCD-ARMM officer-in-charge Myrna Angot said in an emailed report.

A total of 563 families from Brgy. Tukanalipao, where the clash occurred, and neighboring barangays of Pimblakan, Tuka, Pidsandawan, and Dasikil fled their homes, Angot said.

Of that number, 66 families from Tukanalipao are staying at a madrasah (Islamic school) in Brgy. Daladap, while 497 are taking refuge with relatives, she said. 

Gov’t careful on MILF involvement

Ranking officials of the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF), which is currently in peace negotiations with the government, admitted that members of the group were involved in the clash and defended their action.

Government officials, on the other hand, were careful in mentioning the MILF’s involvement.

“Hindi naman naka-uniporme ‘yung mga nagpaputok kontra sa ating kapulisan but in that area, halo ‘yung mga puwersa. We will know exactly,” Interior and Local Government Secretary Mar Roxas told reporters in Camp Crame.

Roxas made the remark when asked if the MILF were indeed involved in the fighting.

Defense Secretary Voltaire Gazmin, in a separate interview, said he received information that the members of the smaller Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters (BIFF), which had broken away from the MILF, were also involved in the clash.

“Ang pagkaalam namin pumasok dito ‘yung BIFF so we have to run after them,” Gazmin told reporters in Camp Aguinaldo.

Gazmin and Roxas, along with Armed Forces chief Gen. Gregorio Catapang and Espina, later flew to Maguindanao to discuss the situation with local authorities.

Cause of concern

The defense chief, without mentioning the MILF, admitted that the government is “concerned” on how the fighting will affect the peace negotiations.

“Hindi naman kami worried but it is a concern dahil may mga taong ayaw sumama dun sa majority, gagawa at gagawa nyan para mapansin,” Gazmin said, obviously referring to the BIFF.

In a phone interview with reporters, MILF chief negotiator Mohagher Iqbal admitted that the group is wary of the clash’s possible effect on the passage of the Bangsamoro Basic Law (BBL).

“‘Yun na nga ang pinangangambahan,” Iqbal said.

Congress’ deliberations for the BBL, which will implement the peace agreement signed between the government and MILF last March, were suspended on Monday until authorities complete the probe on the clash.

“Ang importante dito, ‘yung dalawang panig, ‘yung partners sa peace process, mag-usap at tingnan how to move forward, kasi mas mahalaga ‘yung peace process, mahalaga ‘yung BBL,” Iqbal said.

‘Misencounter’

Iqbal defended the MILF’s involvement in the clash, saying policemen “attacked” an MILF area.

“Lumusob ang PNP so nagdepensa ‘yung MILF… Siguro higit na isang company ‘yun, may dalawang wings ‘yung umatake… ‘yung dalawang wings, ‘yun ang nakasagupa ng MILF kasi ‘yung area na ‘yun mga 90 percent MILF area,” he said.

“One hundred percent, 1,000 percent walang coordination sa ceasefire [committee], walang coordination sa Ad Hoc Joint Action Group,” Iqbal added.

Roxas, in the press briefing in Maguindanao, maintained that the SAF conducted a “legitimate operation” Sunday against Malaysian and Filipino bomb experts Zulkifli bin Hir alias Marwan and Abdul Basit Usman.

“Isa itong legitimate operation against Marwan and Basit Usman. Hindi ito para manggulo,” the DILG chief said.

What happened between the SAF and MILF appeared to be a “misencounter,” he added.

Members of the SAF were already pulling out of their area of operation in Brgy. Tukanalipao when they encountered “lawless elements,” Senior Superintendent Noel Armilla, officer-in-charge of the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao regional police, said Sunday night.

“When the Special Action Force
people were withdrawing, they were ambushed by members of the BIFF
and some allegedly, this as to be verified
and validated, had a misencounter with the MILF,” Espina said.

Iqbal said the MILF is conducting an investigation into the clash, but will also wait for the result of a separate probe being conducted by the Malaysian-led International Monitoring Team.

Marwan death unvalidated; Basit Usman escaped

Security forces, meanwhile, admitted that they have yet to validate reports that SAF members killed Marwan during their operation.

“According to reports, they (SAF) were able to neutralize one, si Marwan. Although yung isa nakawala, si Basit Usman,” Gazmin said.

“We have no confirmation but that was the report we got last night… We will validate that,” the defense chief said, when pressed for a confirmation on Marwan’s reported death.

“It is most highly likely that he was killed in the process,” Espina said

Marwan, a ranking member of the Southeast Asian terror network Jemaah Islamiyah born in Malaysia’s Johor state, is wanted by the U.S. government who offers US$5 million for his capture.

He is said to have been hiding in the Philippines since 2003 and was previously reported to have been killed in a military air strike in Sulu in 2012.

Usman, linked both to the Jemaah Islamiyah and Abu Sayyaf, is also wanted by the U.S. who offers up to US$ 1 million for his arrest. (John Roson)

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Several casualties were reported as police commandos clashed with armed men while hunting down an operative of the Southeast Asian terror network Jemaah Islamiyah (JI) in Mamasapano, Maguindanao, Sunday, a police official said.

“May mga casualty sa side natin at side nila pero di pa namin makuha ang exact figure, we are still in the process of extraction,” Senior Superintendent Noel Armilla, officer-in-charge of the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao regional police, said by phone.

The clash involved members of the PNP Special Action Force (SAF) and “lawless elements,” he said.

Earlier, around 4 a.m., SAF members conducted a special operation in Brgy. Tukanalipao, targetting an “individual linked to the Jemaah Islamiyah,” Armilla said, citing field reports.

“Fortunately, according to them, na-acomplish nila ang mission nila, pero habang nagwi-withdraw sila in-engage sila ng lawless elements sa marshland area, that was around 9 to 10 a.m.,” he said.

The clash lasted for hours and “sporadic fighting” is still occuring, Armilla said when reached by phone 7 p.m.

Reinforcements from different units of the ARMM police, and the Army’s mechanized brigade have been sent, he said.

Other policemen, personnel of the local government unit, and the Malaysian-led International Monitoring Team are now also in the area to help fetch the casualties and monitor the situation, Armilla said.

Sources said that the SAF operation targetted Zulkifli bin Hir alias Marwan, a Malaysian bomb expert.

Marwan is wanted by the U.S. government, which is offering US$ 5 million for his capture.

He was previously reported to have died in a military air strike in Sulu province in 2012. (John Roson)

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