Who is Marwan?

Who is Marwan?

The principal target of the police commando operation in Mamasapano, Maguindanao on Jan. 25 was known as the Osama bin Laden of Southeast Asia.

Malaysian Zulkifli bin Abdul Hir, also known as Marwan, was believed killed in the operation. His Filipino cohort Basit Usman managed to escape.

Forty-four Special Action Force (SAF) commandos, purportedly pursuing Marwan and Usman, were killed in a clash with the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF), the Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters (BIFF) and a private armed group.

Marwan is listed as one of the world’s most wanted terrorists, with at least a $5-million bounty on his head. He is believed to head the Kumpulun Mujahidin Malaysia (KMM), a member organization of the Jemaah Islamiyah (JI) terrorist network.

According to his profile in the US Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI), Marwan had used two dates of birth – Jan. 5, 1966 and Oct. 5, 1966. He weighs 120 pounds and is 5 feet 6 inches tall.

Marwan – supposedly able to speak Malaysian, English, Tagalog and Arabic – is believed to have been staying in the southern Philippines since 2003, where he has conducted bomb-making training for the Abu Sayyaf group. He allegedly taught Azahari Husin, known as the “demolition man” who supposedly masterminded the 2002 Bali attack, how to create explosive devices.

On Aug. 1, 2007, Marwan was indicted in the US District Court, Northern District of California, and charged with “providing material support to terrorists, conspiracy to provide material support to terrorists, contributing goods and services to a specially designated global terrorist and making false statements.”

In 2012, the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) declared that Marwan was among the 15 terrorists killed in a US-backed air strike in Sulu, a victory that was much celebrated. The operation killed Abu Sayyaf leader Umbra Jumdail Gumbahali, or Doc Abu.

However, in August last year, the military recanted their earlier pronouncements as intelligence reports noted that Marwan was supposedly sighted roaming with about 10 terrorists in Mindanao.

Another operation to either kill or capture Marwan had been planned last year – perhaps one reason why suspended Philippine National Police (PNP) chief Director General Alan Purisima was still allegedly on top of the SAF attack gone awry.

The operation on Jan. 25 was purportedly green-lighted because intelligence reports were deemed “actionable.”

According to reports, Marwan, a US-trained engineer, grew fond of his Filipino wife Joromee Dongon, widow of Abu Sayyaf founder Khadaffy Janjalani, such that US troops and intelligence groups used her as a “tracer” to identify Marwan’s exact location.

Dongon’s calls were purportedly tapped and this enabled the SAF and intelligence groups to trace Marwan’s calls and location. – Cherry Salazar