Zulkifli Abdhir

Zulkifli Abdhir (5 January 1966 or 5 October 1966 – 25 January 2015) was a Malaysian who was one of the FBI Most Wanted Terrorists. The American Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) agency offered a US$5 million reward for information leading to his capture. He was the maker of bombs delivered for usage to several terrorist groups.[5] He was often referred to by the nom de guerre Marwan. He was suspected of leading the Kumpulan Mujahidin Malaysia (KMM), being part of the central command of the Jemaah Islamiyah (JI), and of involvement in the 2002 Bali bombings. He was suspected of hiding in Mindanao under the protection of the Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters.

Zulkifli Abdhir
Photograph taken in 2000
Zulkifli Abdhir

5 January 1966 or 5 October 1966[1]
Muar, Johor, Malaysia
Died25 January 2015 (aged 48 or 49)
Mamasapano, Maguindanao, Philippines
Cause of deathGun shot wounds[2]
Resting placePresumed around the village of Tukanalipao
Other names
show all (30)
  • Marwan
  • Zulkifli bin Hir
  • Zulkifli bin Abdul Hir
  • Zulkifli Abd Hir
  • Hulagu
  • Holagu
  • Lagu
  • Musa Abdul Hir
  • Zulkifli Abdul Hir
  • Zulkifli Abdul Khir
  • Abdul Hir Zulkifli
  • Abduhir Bin Hir
  • Bin Abdul Hir Zulkifli
  • Zulkifli
  • Zulkifli Hir
  • Musa, Abdulhir Bin Hir
  • Ahmad Shobirin
  • Armand Escalante
  • Hassan
  • Hendri Lawi
  • Henri Lawi
  • Hogalu
  • Hugalu
  • Muslimin Abdulmotalib
  • Norhana Mohamad
  • Normina, Hashim
  • Omar Salem
  • Salim Alombra
Occupation(s)Leader of the Kumpulan Mujahidin Malaysia, part of the central command of the Jemaah Islamiyah, Telecommunications engineer
Known forOne of the FBI's Most Wanted Terrorists
Height1.68 m (5 ft 6 in)
Allegiance Abu Sayyaf
Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters
Kumpulan Mujahidin Malaysia (leader)
Jemaah Islamiyah
Khalifa Islamiyah Mindanao (co-founder)
Moro Islamic Liberation Front (alleged)
Reward amount
Capture status
Wanted by
United States[3]
show all (23)
  • Rahmat Abdhir
  • Azahari Husin
  • Noordin Mohammad Top
  • Aljebir Adzhar
  • Muhamda Ali
  • Dulmatin
  • Fathur Rohman al-Ghozi
  • Umbra Jumdail Gumbahali
  • Ren-Ren Dongon
  • Zainab Dongon[4]
  • Maria Halim
  • Umar Patek
  • Jaida
  • Khadaffy Janjalani
  • Ameril Umbra Kato
  • Mohamad Amin Musa
  • Mohammad Sabil
  • Pahmiya Sabil
  • Jainal Antel Sali
  • Esmail Solaiman
  • Yazid Sufaat
  • Abu Tariq
  • Abdul Basit Usman
Wanted since2000, August 2003
Time at large
20 years
VictimsMultiple bombing incidents of which his involvement is highly suspected.
Span of crimes
2000  2015  
CountryIndonesia, Malaysia, Philippines
Target(s)Civilians, government officials
WeaponsSuicide bombs, IEDs

Zulkifli was killed on 25 January 2015 by Philippine Special Action Force (SAF) officers during the raid that culminated in the Mamasapano clash.

Early life

Zulkifli was born on 5 January 1966 or 5 October 1966 in Muar, Johor, Malaysia. Zulkifli was known to reference both dates in different circumstances as his date of birth. According to the FBI, he was 5 feet 6 inches tall, approximately 120 pounds, and could speak Malay, Tagalog, English, and Arabic.[5] Zulkifli attended a boarding school in Malaysia until he trained overseas as an engineer in the USA. After his training, he abruptly left his 10 siblings and 3 children to join up with terrorist activities.[6]

I remember him saying that he wanted to secure a good job and provide for the family. He used to take me sightseeing regularly and helped me with the household expenses. Then he was gone.

Mother of Zulkifli recalling his departure.[7]


Zulkifli, often going under the nom de guerre "Marwan", was suspected to be in charge of the South Eastern Asian and Indonesian terrorist group called the Kumpulan Mujahidin Malaysia (KMM). The KMM is/was a part of the international terrorist organisation, Jemaah Islamiyah (JI), of which Zulkifli was believed to be part of its central command. The JI is the main cause of the devastating 2002 Bali bombings and many other attacks in South Eastern Asia of which Zulkifli's involvement in is also suspected.[8] Abdhir also co-founded the terrorist group Khalifa Islamiyah Mindanao.[9] He was initially wanted by the Malaysian government for the killing of a Christian member of their Parliament in 2000, which was an attack that was backed by Al-Qaeda.[10]

Zulkifli was wanted for the allegation of being a supplier of bombs to various terrorist groups around the world. He was also under suspicion of teaching terrorists how to create bombs. Zulkifli, himself, was taught to make IEDs by the terrorist Azahari Husin. He was involved in the building of bombs for the Abu Sayyaf terrorist group, which brought him into brief collaborations with Umar Patek, before Patek's leaving to Pakistan,[11] and with Khadaffy Janjalani (deceased).[12] Zulkifli was indicted for arrest on 1 August 2007 in the United States District Court for the Northern District of California.[13]

While hiding in Mindanao under the protection of the Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters (BIFF), he continued to stay involved in militant Islamic activity and terrorist bombings.[14][15] An anonymous military source told Gulf News that, along with other South Eastern Asian militants, Zulkifli was engaged in the training of local jihadist volunteers to join The Islamic State.[16] This was reported after the BIFF declared its allegiance to helping ISIL's cause.[17]

Sources have estimated that during his militant activity in Mindanao he may have trained up to 300 terrorists in explosives use, detonation, and building.[18]

It was reported from news organisations on 26 January 2015, that the Jemaah Islamiyah in co-ordination with Zulkifli had planned to construct a bomb to be detonated as the papal convoy drove down T.M. Kalaw Street in Manila on 18 January. The source also claimed that another attempt on the Pope's life was planned the day before, but was thwarted by changes in the Pope's plans. Filipino police have denied the legitimacy of these reports.[19][20]

Family connections

His brother, Rahmat Abdhir, was arrested in California for conspiracy to provide material support to terrorists, providing material to terrorists, false statements, and providing material to a Specially Designated Global Terrorist (Zulkifli). In an email between the two they discussed the exchange rates and prices of weapons, specifically an M60 machine gun. Further investigation showed that Rahmat had wired over 10,000 dollars to his brother.[21][22] Federal agents discovered 1,000 rounds of ammunition, scopes to sniper rifles, two-way radios, military training manuals, and materials used to make bombs. Rahmat was refused bail twice, once upon his initial arrest and a second time in 2008.[23][24] He is currently in custody in a California prison, contrary to unverified reports of his residence being in the Guantanamo Bay detention camp,[25] where he submitted his DNA to confirm his brother's demise. The FBI told Reuters that he was "a person familiar with the testing procedures", indicating they extracted his DNA previously.[26]

His brother-in-law, Taufik bin Abdul Halim was also arrested for terrorist charges in 2001 for involvement in an attempted mall bombing located in Jakarta, Indonesia. The explosive device reportedly triggered early leading to little or no injuries besides Taufik himself, who lost his leg in the explosion.[27] After 12 years in jail for his attempted bombing, Taufik was released and flown back to Johor to be with his family after being pardoned by President of Indonesia Joko Widodo. Malaysian police have promised to monitor his actions due to his high-profile relation to Zulkifli.[17][28][29]

Zulkifli Abdhir is the cousin of Malaysian terrorist Mohamad Farik Amin (alias Zubair Zaid), who is also suspected as a main culprit in the 2002 Bali bombings. Amin is one of two Malaysians to be currently detained at the Guantanamo Bay detention camp in Cuba.[30]

Location and manhunt

Early reports claimed that in the Philippines, Zulkifli died during an airstrike on 2 February 2012. The Malaysian government asked for an official DNA comparison to the DNA of one of Zulkifli's siblings. DNA results were obtained from family members of Zulkifli.[31] His body was never found despite reports of his death. The statements of his supposed death were later retracted as the manhunt continued.[32][33][34]

Von Al Haq, a spokesperson for the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF), claimed in 2013 that Zulkifli was being protected by Ameril Umbra Kato's Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters (BIFF).[35] This claim was later corroborated by an interrogation with a detained Abu Sayyaf commander, Khair Mundos, who claimed that he travelled to the Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters with Zulkifli. Local informants have also claimed Zulkifli to have visited the province of Maguindanao. The detained Abu Sayyaf leader claimed that Zulkifli, and other high ranking Jemaah Islamiyah leader, Muhamda "Muawiyah" Ali, escaped the February airstrike that was reported to have killed them in Sulu and have taken refuge with the Bangsamoro separatists.[36][37]

2015 Mamasapano clash and death

The Philippine National Police Special Action Force attempted an operation on 25 January 2015 to arrest Zulkifli. The operation culminated in a battle in Mamasapano between the PNP and the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF), breaking the ceasefire. The MILF was later joined by their breakaway group, the Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters, in a battle that led to the death of 44 police officers, several civilians, and at least 18 militants.[38] The Philippines mobilised more reinforcements though they were cautious in attempting to not create more civilian casualties. Reasons for the clashes and renewed hostilities are being attributed to a lack of communication between the PNP, the military, and MILF before undertaking the operation. It was thought of as "highly likely" that Zulkifli had been killed in the raid until the FBI provided DNA confirmation of his demise in the clash.[39]


Reports say that he was killed by SAF officer(s) on 25 January 2015.[40] Early in the morning of 25 January 2015, Zulkifli was reportedly taken by surprise as his nipa hut was raided by SAF member(s) who proceeded to shoot and kill Zulkifli after a brief exchange of fire. The commandos sent a cellphone message back to their base saying: "Mike 1 bingo", a code to be used in case Zulkifli was neutralised.[41] An SAF officer severed one of Zulkifli's fingers and retrieved a hair sample to bring back for official DNA testing, as Zulkifli's body could not be recovered in time due to heavy fire.[42] His corpse was quickly buried by civilians in accordance with Islamic tradition. Regional governor Mujiv Sabbihi Hataman has stated that the body could not be exhumed as that would go against Islamic burial practices.[43][44] The FBI were requested to help confirm Marwan's DNA samples.[45][46]

The status of his death remained controversial for a while after it was reported, due to the Sulu airstrike incident in 2012, where the military incorrectly reported Zulkifli's death until August 2014. Despite claims of his demise, the Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF) claimed that Marwan was still alive. The MNLF confirmed Zulkifli's demise in the clash and continues to state that they have not been sheltering Zulkifli.[47][48] The MNLF said that based on an intelligence report they received that said Marwan is dead as a result of the encounter. MILF chairman Al-Hajj Murad Ebrahim also told that Abdul Basit Usman, who was also pursued by SAF troops was able to escape.[48]

It was reported that his last words as he attempted to fire against the SAF officers raiding his nipa hut were "Allahu Akbar!"[49]

DNA confirmation

On 4 February 2015, the FBI sent a message to Philippine authorities confirming that the DNA obtained from the killed man during the PNP Special Action Force Operation Exodus was from Zulkifli. Though absolute identification was not possible in the preliminary stages of testing, the FBI has reported that the DNA samples were very likely to be Zulkifli's due to striking similarities.[50][51][52][53][54][55]

The FBI officially confirmed Zulkifli's death on April 1, 2015.[56]

Reactions to death from Abdhir family

His family in Malaysia have said that they have no intention to claim his body, his daughter said "To us, our father died a long time ago, there is no need to claim the body."[57]

A male relative said; "Our family had been informed six times, over the years, that he had been killed. I am tired of saying Inna lillahi wa inna ilayhi raji'un (surely we belong to Allah and to Him shall we return). All he told us were lies after lies. We are the ones who were forced to face the predicament of his doings. More so after he was labelled as the mastermind behind the 2002 Bali Bombings." adding that the only person who still saw the good in Marwan was his mother.[57] The same male relative spoke angrily of Zulkifli's brother Rahmat and claimed that he was highly impressionable and was manipulated by Zulkifli into providing the support that he did. The relative blamed Zulkifli for ruining Rahmat's life, including for his children and wife.[57]

See also


  1. "Fbi — Zulkifli Abdhir". www.fbi.gov:80. Archived from the original on 13 January 2015. Retrieved 12 January 2022.
  2. John Unson (27 January 2015). "Villagers: Rebels finished off SAF members with shots to the head". The Philippine Star. Retrieved 7 February 2015.
  3. Barbara Mae Dacanay (12 August 2014). "Indonesia, Malaysia, Philippines hunt militant". Gulf News. Retrieved 7 February 2015.
  4. Maria A. Ressa (21 March 2012). "How 2 JI terrorists survived bomb attack". Rappler. Retrieved 7 February 2015.
  5. "Most Wanted Terrorists (Zulkifli Abdhir)". Federal Bureau of Investigation. Retrieved 7 February 2015.
  6. "Mother of Malaysian terrorist fears she has lost him to militancy forever: Report". Straits Times Asia Report. 5 July 2014. Archived from the original on 12 August 2014. Retrieved 12 August 2014.
  7. "'PRAISE BE TO GOD' - mother of M'sia terror chief when told Marwan still alive & making bombs!". Malaysia Chronicle. 5 July 2014. Retrieved 12 August 2014.
  8. "Bali death toll set at 202". BBC News. 19 February 2003. Retrieved 12 August 2014.
  9. Medina, Andrei (18 February 2015). "Marwan was only one of the leaders of Khalifa Islamiyah Mindanao". GMA News. Retrieved 19 February 2015.
  10. Maria A. Ressa (2 February 2015). "EXCLUSIVE: Marwan's ties that bind: Aljebir Adzhar aka Embel". Rappler. Retrieved 7 February 2015.
  11. Hrvoje Hranjski; Jim Gomez (2 February 2012). "Zulkifli Bin Hir, Southeast Asia's Most Wanted Terrorist, Reportedly Killed". The Huffington Post. Retrieved 7 February 2015.
  12. "Philippines arrests alleged Indonesian militant". NBC News. Associated Press. 22 March 2005. Retrieved 7 February 2015.
  13. Pierre Thomas (3 August 2007). "Brothers Indicted on Terror Charges". ABC News. Retrieved 7 February 2015.
  14. "Cotabato city officials say they received death threats prior to bomb attack". GMA News and Public Affairs. 6 August 2013. Retrieved 7 February 2015.
  15. "Malaysian terrorist 'Marwan' linked to deadly Philippines blast". Asian Correspondent. 7 August 2013. Retrieved 7 February 2015.
  16. Barbara Mae Dacanay (20 August 2014). "100 Filipino Muslims join Isil in Iraq". Gulf News. Retrieved 7 February 2015.
  17. Karlos Manlupig (19 September 2014). "The BIFF-ISIS connection and social media". Rappler. Retrieved 7 February 2015.
  18. John Unson (30 January 2015). "Marwan leaves behind 300 bomb makers in Mindanao". The Philippine Star. Retrieved 7 February 2015.
  19. Perseus Echeminada (26 January 2015). "Jemaah Islamiyah tagged in plot to kill pope". The Philippine Star. Retrieved 7 February 2015.
  20. Alexis Romero (26 January 2015). "DND insists alleged Jemaah Islamiyah threat to pope is unvalidated". The Philippine Star. Retrieved 7 February 2015.
  21. John Coté (3 August 2007). "Terror charges for man - brother at large in Philippines". San Francisco Chronicle. Retrieved 7 February 2015.
  22. Jim Kouri (12 August 2007). "Global terrorist and his sibling indicted for supporting terrorist group". Renew America. Retrieved 7 February 2015.
  23. Howard Mintz (15 February 2008). "Court rejects bail for San Jose terror suspect". San Jose Mercury News. Retrieved 7 February 2015.
  24. Jennifer Martinez; Sean Webby (8 August 2007). "San Jose terror suspect kept guns in home, storage". San Jose Mercury News. Retrieved 7 February 2015.
  25. Pia Lee-Brago (6 February 2015). "'Marwan's brod held in California, not Guantanamo'". The Philippine Star. Retrieved 7 February 2015.
  26. Julia Edwards (4 February 2015). "Wanted militant's DNA believed found among dead in Philippine raid -FBI". Reuters. Retrieved 7 February 2015.
  27. Farrah Naz Karim (21 June 2014). "Presumed dead militant still alive". New Straits Times. Retrieved 7 February 2015.
  28. Farik Zolkepli (15 November 2014). "Cops to monitor Taufik due to his links with FBI's most wanted man". The Star. Retrieved 7 February 2015.
  29. Ahmad Pramudya (3 December 2014). "Malaysia monitoring released JI terrorist". Khabar Southeast Asia. Retrieved 7 February 2015.
  30. 'I would do it again without hesitation', New Straits Times, 23 May 2015
  31. Steven Daniel (9 February 2012). "DNA samples obtained from families of three M'sian terrorists killed". The Star. Retrieved 7 February 2015.
  32. "Malaysia: show DNA proof of terrorist's death". Rappler. 4 February 2012. Retrieved 7 February 2015.
  33. Floyd Whaley (13 March 2012). "Terrorist Was Not Killed in Airstrike, Malaysian Official Says". The New York Times. Retrieved 7 February 2015.
  34. "WANTED DEAD OR ALIVE: U.S. FBI offers RM16 MIL BOUNTY for M'sian terror chief Marwan". Malaysia Chronicle. 4 July 2014. Retrieved 7 February 2015.
  35. "Tracking Terrorism (Kumpulan Mujahidin Malaysia – KMM)". Tracking Terrorism. Retrieved 7 February 2015.
  36. "Arrested Abu Sayyaf bandit: Terror suspect alive". Sun.Star. 6 August 2014. Retrieved 7 February 2015.
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  38. Arlene Samson-Espiritu; Tim Hume (26 January 2015). "43 Philippine police killed by Muslim rebels". CNN. KTVZ. Retrieved 7 February 2015.
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    Jim Gomez (26 January 2015). "Toll Of Filipino Commandos Killed In Rebel Clash Rises To At Least 43". The Huffington Post. Associated Press. Retrieved 7 February 2015.
  39. Ferdinandh Cabrera (25 January 2015). "Dozens feared dead in Maguindanao clash between PNP, Moro rebels". GMA News and Public Affairs. Retrieved 7 February 2015.
    "Philippine police clash with Muslim rebels in south, at least 30 dead". Reuters. 25 January 2015. Retrieved 7 February 2015.
    "Acting PNP chief: Retrieving, treating casualties in Maguindanao clash a priority". GMA News and Public Affairs. 25 January 2015. Retrieved 7 February 2015.
    "'High likelihood' Malaysian militant killed in Philippine raid". Agence France-Presse. Yahoo! News. 27 January 2015. Retrieved 7 February 2015.
    Floyd Whaley (26 January 2015). "Scores of Philippine Police Officers Killed in Firefight With Rebels". The New York Times. Retrieved 7 February 2015.
    Trefor Moss (26 January 2015). "Philippine Commandos Killed in Raid Over Suspected Terrorist". The Wall Street Journal. Retrieved 7 February 2015.
    "Rebel fighters kill dozens of Philippines commandoes". Al Jazeera America. Associated Press. 26 January 2015. Retrieved 7 February 2015.
    "'High likelihood' suspected Bali bomber among dead in Philippines clashes, official says". Agence France-Presse. ABC Online. 27 January 2015. Retrieved 7 February 2015.
    "Wisma Putra awaits report on claim Malaysian killed in Philippine battle". The Rakyat Post. 27 January 2015. Retrieved 7 February 2015.
  40. Carmela Fonbuena (26 January 2015). "Dead or alive? Top terrorist was cops' target". Rappler. Retrieved 7 February 2015.
  41. "Is Marwan dead? Philippines awaits answer of costly terror raid". New Straits Times. Associated Press. 31 January 2015. Retrieved 7 February 2015.
  42. Arlyn de la Cruz (30 January 2015). "Marwan finger cut off for DNA". Philippine Daily Inquirer. Retrieved 7 February 2015.
  43. "Purported photo of slain Malaysian bomber Marwan surfaces in Southern Philippines". Mindanao Examiner. 29 January 2015. Retrieved 7 February 2015.
  44. "Where's Marwan's body? And other questions on the Mamasapano clash". GMA News and Public Affairs. 4 February 2015. Retrieved 7 February 2015.
  45. "DNA samples sent to FBI to confirm if terrorist killed by PNP-SAF was Marwan". GMA News and Public Affairs. 29 January 2015. Retrieved 7 February 2015.
  46. Joyce Pangco Panares; Florante S. Solmerin (30 January 2015). "DNA testing of Marwan remains sent stateside". Manila Standard Today. Retrieved 7 February 2015.
  47. Francisco Tuyay (28 January 2015). "Is Marwan dead or not? Reports vary". Manila Standard Today. Retrieved 7 February 2015.
  48. "MILF says Marwan dead, Usman still alive". GMA News and Public Affairs. 30 January 2015. Retrieved 7 February 2015.
  49. The Star Online (10 February 2015). "Marwan's last words in gunbattle". The Star Online. Retrieved 14 February 2015.
  50. "BREAKING DNA match, as confirmed by FBI, proves Marwan was killed". Interaksyon. 4 February 2015. Retrieved 4 February 2015.
  51. DJ Sta. Ana (4 February 2015). "DNA match, as confirmed by FBI, proves Marwan was killed". News5. Retrieved 7 February 2015.
  52. Matikas Santos (4 February 2015). "FBI officially confirms SAF commandos killed Marwan". Philippine Daily Inquirer. Retrieved 7 February 2015.
  53. "Top suspect Zulkifli bin Hir likely dead in Philippines - FBI". BBC News. 4 February 2015. Retrieved 7 February 2015.
  54. Pia Lee Brago (5 February 2015). "FBI: DNA results indicate Marwan dead". The Philippine Star. Retrieved 7 February 2015.
  55. Pete Williams (5 February 2015). "Wanted Al Qaeda-Linked Islamist Believed Dead in Philippines Raid: FBI". NBC News. Retrieved 7 February 2015.
  56. Edwards, Julia (1 April 2015). "FBI confirms death of militant with DNA from severed finger". Reuters.
  57. "My dad died long time ago, no need to claim his body". Daily Express. 7 February 2015. Retrieved 8 February 2015.

Further reading

Wanted and designation as a terrorist


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