KUALA LUMPUR - Malaysian terrorist Zulkifli Abd Hir is not dead. He is alive and remains one of the world's most wanted and elusive terrorists.
The United States' Federal Bureau of Investigation has put a RM16 million (S$6.25 million) price on his head and security agencies have stepped up their operations in the hunt for this dangerous fugitive, especially in view of events in Syria and Iraq.
They fear a resurgence of terror following the call by Abu Bakar Baghdadi - now regarded as the most dangerous terrorist in the world - to radical Muslims worldwide to rise and fight for the Islamic State, the new foundation of a Caliphate.
Regional security agencies said they were now re-looking at the movements of Zulkifli "in the light of events in the Middle East and its impact on South-East Asia."
Bukit Aman Special Branch's Counter Terrorism Division principal assistant director Senior Asst Comm Datuk Ayob Khan confirmed that Zulkifli, also known as Marwan, was still alive - despite reports that he had been killed in an airstrike on Feb 2, 2012.
"We are aware of reports that said he was killed a few years ago. That is not true. We believe he is hiding in southern Philippines," he said yesterday.
He added that his division was now tracking Marwan down and monitoring those close to him.
Asked if Zulkifli might be involved in the local militant movement and in sending fighters to Syria and Iraq, SAC Ayob said police have not ruled out such a possibility.
It is learnt that Muar-born Zulkifli had a wife in Malaysia but married three other Philippine nationals when he went into hiding.
The 48-year-old US trained engineer, who is a bomb making expert, has close links to the Abu Sayyaf terrorist group that is now active in the Philippines.
Intelligence sources said the Kumpulan Mujahiddin Malaysia (KMM) leader is regarded as a supplier of bombs for radical groups, and a trainer of their fighters.
"That is why his arrest is vital in our war against terror. He is part of the Jemaah Islamiyah group that was responsible for the 2002 Bali bombings that killed 200 people," an analyst said.
His brother, Rahmat Abdhir, a US citizen, is now in detention in Guantanamo, following his arrest in California for conspiracy to provide material support to terrorists.
Zulkifli, like other KMM members, had travelled in the late 1980s to Afghanistan to join the resistance against the Russians, according to reports.
On returning to Malaysia, he hooked up with other Malaysian Afghan veterans to form KMM, which aimed to form a regional Islamic state via violence.
KMM members have been linked to the murder of Lunas assemblyman Dr Joe Fernandez in 2002, the bombing of a church and a Hindu temple, and also the attack on the Guar Chempedak police station on Feb 4, 2001.
Those arrested under the Internal Security Act included several PAS grassroots leaders such as Zainon Ismail, Noorashid Sakid, Ahmad Tajuddin and Nik Adli Nik Aziz, the son of the then Kelantan Mentri Besar.