Malaysia's most wanted militant 'a good son'

The mother of Malaysia's most wanted militant says she would take him back despite his terror activities, while friends of one of five other wanted militants said they never suspected that he was involved in recruiting and training terrorists.

"I really am not sure how to react to all this," Madam Aminah Abdul Aziz, 68, the mother of Zulkifli Abd Hirm, better known as Marwan, told The New Straits Times yesterday. "But he is my son and if he comes back and asks for forgiveness, I will embrace him."

Police last Friday revealed that intelligence reports showed Zulkifli, 48, believed to have been killed in a pre-dawn air strike by Philippine forces two years ago, was still alive and hiding in Jolo in the southern Philippines. There, he is believed to be training terrorists to make bombs.

Zulkifli is among the world's most wanted men for attacks such as the Bali bombings that killed more than 200 in 2002. The Federal Bureau of Investigation in the United States has a RM16 million (S$6.3 million) bounty on his head.

His mother, who has 13 other children, said she was unaware of his terrorism activities until she was informed by police in the late 1990s. "Growing up, he was rarely at home as he was in a boarding school, before going overseas to study. He was a good son and a responsible brother to his siblings," she told the New Straits Times.

"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 help me with the household expenses. Then, he was gone."

The last time Madam Aminah saw Zulkifli was more than a decade ago, she told the New Straits Times. He has three children who live with their mother, known only as Ms Maria.

His eldest daughter, who is 18, received Johor's Excellent Student Award as she was among the top 30 students in the national examinations last year, and has a scholarship to pursue a degree in medicine.

A 24-year-old sister of Zulkifli's, who recently graduated as a doctor, said: "Growing up, he often reminded us (his younger siblings) to study hard."

Police are also searching for five others who are suspected of having terror links with Al-Qaeda and the Philippines-based Abu Sayyaf. These men, believed to be hiding in the Philippines, are said to have stepped up recruitment for terrorist groups, including the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS), now also known as the Islamic State.

Last Friday, in a speech at a breaking fast event, Deputy Prime Minister Muhyiddin Yassin expressed concern about them fighting "other Muslims".

Local media reported that Universiti Malaya senior lecturer Mahmud Ahmad, 36, is believed to have arranged for four Malaysians to travel to Syria in March, including Malaysia's first suicide bomber, Ahmad Tarmimi Maliki.

According to the Star, Mahmud's neighbours said they had occasionally seen him outside his home with his young children, before he stopped turning up for work more than a month ago.

"I don't know him but he seemed like a family man and looked respectable," a neighbour who declined to be named was quoted by the English daily as saying.

Mahmud's mother, who wanted to be identified only as Madam Umi, declined to be interviewed.

"If I say A, you are going to write B, like that reporter yesterday," she was quoted as saying, before entering Mahmud's home. While Madam Aminah has hopes of reuniting with her son, Zulkifli, she is well aware that may never happen.

She said: "But then, if he is dead, I will say a prayer for him."

This article was first published on July 06, 2014.
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