FBI con­firms death of top Malaysian mil­i­tant in raid

The China Post - - INTERNATIONAL -

The FBI con­firmed Thurs­day that a se­nior Malaysian mil­i­tant be­lieved to have been in­volved in the 2002 Bali bomb­ings was killed in a Jan­uary raid in the Philip­pines that also left 44 po­lice com­man­dos dead.

Zulk­i­fli Ab­d­hir, who was on the bureau’s most-wanted list with a US$5 mil­lion re­ward on his head, was killed in the Jan. 25 op­er­a­tion that plunged Pres­i­dent Benigno Aquino’s ad­min­is­tra­tion into cri­sis and jeop­ar­dized ef­forts to end a decades-long Mus­lim sep­a­ratist in­sur­gency, the FBI said.

“Af­ter a thor­ough re­view of foren­sic data and in­for­ma­tion ob­tained from our Philip­pine law en­force­ment part­ners, the FBI has as­sessed that ter­ror­ism sub­ject, Zulk­i­fli Ab­d­hir, also known as “Mar­wan,” is de­ceased and has been re­moved from the FBI’s list of Most Wanted Ter­ror­ists,” the FBI Los An­ge­les of­fice said in a state­ment.

The na­tional po­lice said the con­fir­ma­tion “val­i­dates” their ear­lier in­sis­tence that the botched raid, which caused Aquino’s ap­proval rat­ing to tum­ble to its low­est level since he took of­fice in 2010, was a suc­cess de­spite the huge death toll.

“We have got our man and (the op­er­a­tion) was a suc­cess,” Philip­pine na­tional po­lice spokesman Chief Su­per­in­ten­dent Gen­eroso Cerbo said in re­sponse to the FBI con­fir­ma­tion.

Poor plan­ning and co­or­di­na­tion had been blamed for the deaths of the com­man­dos sent to the trou­bled south­ern is­land of Min­danao to get Zulk­i­fli and a se­nior Filipino mil­i­tant leader Ab­dul Ba­sit Us­man, who es­caped.

While the forces were able to kill Zulk­i­fli dur­ing the raid, they were later at­tacked by Mus­lim gun­men who killed 44 of them.

“We are glad we can fi­nally erase all doubts about this death. We are now as­sured that the no­to­ri­ous ter­ror­ist has been neu­tral­ized,” said Philip­pine mil­i­tary spokesman Bri­gadier Gen­eral Joselito Kak­i­lala.

The gov­ern­ment had been left red-faced in 2012 af­ter pre­ma­turely declar­ing Zulk­i­fli dead.

US Role

The raid also prompted ques­tions about the na­ture of U.S.-Philip­pines co­op­er­a­tion on mil­i­tary and an­titer­ror op­er­a­tions with a Philip­pine Se­nate re­port say­ing that the U.S. played a “sub­stan­tial” role in the op­er­a­tion, pro­vid­ing train­ing, equip­ment and in­tel­li­gence to the Filipino forces.

How­ever, some ques­tioned whether Wash­ing­ton’s in­flu­ence on the Philip­pine Na­tional Po­lice was too strong and whether the coun­try would have en­tered into such a risky op­er­a­tion oth­er­wise.

The mil­i­tary says Zulk­i­fli has hid­den among Filipino Mus­lim ex­trem­ist groups since 2003, train­ing lo­cal mil­i­tants in the man­u­fac­ture and use of bombs.

Last week Aquino warned law­mak­ers that un­less the bill was passed the coun­try would have to start “count­ing body bags.”

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