First of all, is he really dead?
News reports flashed all over the world said Malaysian terror suspect Zulkifli Abdul Khir @ Marwan is indeed dead after an air strike on Jolo Island, in southern Philippines on Thursday.
But then in the latest rounds of reports, the Philippines Armed Forces announced that they have yet to find any body at the scene of the US-aided strike despite earlier confirming Zulkifli's death along with several high ranking AlQaeda-linked individuals.
How come there was not a single body found while in the earlier reports it was said up to 15 terrorists were killed?
Could it be that the elusive terror suspect had given the long arms of CIA and other security agencies in the world another slip? He after all did just that over 10 years ago when police closed down on his Kumpulan Militan Malaysia.
Who is this guy, actually?
The truth is, little is known about Muar-born Zulkifli Abdul Khir despite him being among the top most wanted terrorist suspects in the world. He actually ranked just a few rungs lower than Osama bin Laden in the US' most wanted list for many years till now.
With USD5 million bounty on his head, what makes this low-profile chap so dangerous? My bet was that because he is a US-trained engineer and a top notch bomb making expert. He is also considered as being highly intelligent and brave.
I did some search on this Johorean fella and other than those you had probably read in the newspapers about him, I discovered some very interesting stuff.
Zulkifli was born into a big family in Kampung Jeram Masjid, Bakri, Muar in 1966.
His growing up years was typical of any kampung kid in any village in Johor.
He did well in his studies and was enrolled at the prestigious boarding school, Sekolah Datuk Abdul Razak, Seremban in 1979.
He was a normal teenager, who likes to watch kung fu movies and listened to rock music. He prefer Bruce Lee than Jackie Chan and his favorite rock band was Deep Purple. He was also said to be a very good snooker player. All these were said to have been due to the influence of his elder brothers.
Zulkifli did show some early traits of rebelliousness during his school years. Like the other more adventurous boys, he picked up some bad habits such as smoking and going on excursions of climbing over the school fence for a night out. But all that were just more for fun than anything else. It can't be said that he was the naughtiest boy in the school. His nickname among school friends was "Cheng", which was given by seniors due to his Chinese look.
Zulkifli prays five times a day but was not really involved in any of the school's Islamic association activities. He normally perform his prayers in his dormitory instead of going to the surau. In another words, he didn't grow up being an Islamic fundamentalist.
It was said that Zulkifli was a rather quiet but likable boy. Despite being a rather shy character, Zulkifli did talk about his liking of girls to his school friends . He preferred Chinese girls or those of the same features.
His first experience of holding a firearm was when he joined the Army cadet. It was the only uniformed extra-curricular activity he took part in school. He was the best marksman in his batch of cadets and was said to be extremely good in handling the SLR rifle, being able to disassemble and reassemble the British-made weapon in record time.
The first real indication that Zulkifli would one day be a jihadist was in 1982. Just like Osama bin Laden, it was the Sabra and Shatila massacre during the Israeli invasion of Lebanon that year, which first made him hate the US, Israel and their allies. He was said to be very affected by the incident and had kept pictures of the massacred Palestinian civilians which were cut out from the Times magazine.
He did, however, studied very hard in his final year at school and did very well in his SPM to win a scholarship to further his studies in the US.
While studying electrical engineering in the US, Zulkifli continued with his interest in military training and spend most of his summer holidays at private camps where he got himself acquainted with more types of firearms.
His studies did not however proceeded smoothly, probably because it was believed that during that period he began to have contacts with radicals elements among fellow students from the Middle East.
Zulkifli nonetheless completed his studies to obtain a degree in electrical engineering.
This was in the late 1987 , where in another part of the world, it marked the tail end of the Soviet occupation of Afghanistan.
Instead of coming home to a good job and comfortable life like most other Malaysian students, Zulkifli decided to join the fight in that war-ravaged country.
He traveled to Pakistan and using his contacts from the Middle East entered Afghanistan and joined a group of Arab fighters, whom later be infamously known as the Al-Qaeda. They were at that time close allies of the Afghan mujaheddin faction led by the hardliner Gulbuddin Hekmatyar. It was, however, not known whether Zulkifli had personally met Osama bin Laden when he was in Afghanistan.
Despite the mujaheddin at that time being on the verge of winning the war, life was still hard and dangerous for Zulkifli and his fellow fighters. They were still heavily outgunned by the Soviet troops.
Zulkifli was attached to a squad of mostly Arab fighters. He became their expert in defusing land mines and unexploded Soviet bombs which were later used against the enemies. He was also their designated cook. It was said that their meal mostly consisted of rice mixed with ghee and the occasional ladies fingers and potatoes. Only once in a while they get supplies of meat.
Zulkifli was also among the best snipers in the squad. His sniping exploits include crawling through land mines armed with an AK-47 to get close to a Soviet position before letting off a single shot at a prized target and enduring the ensuing barrage of mortar fires.
He, however survived the war unscatched despite the extreme danger.
Some times after the Soviets pulled out of Afghanistan in 1989, Zulkifli was advised by his "seniors" to return home after her received news of some family problems back in Malaysia.
When he came back, he was at first finding it difficult to secure a steady job and ended up doing odd jobs while staying at a rented house in Shah Alam with some friends, several whom were themselves Afghan veterans.
Surprisingly though, old friends who met him during this time said Zulkifli was still the same shy but likable guy they know many years earlier.
He prays five times a day but still listened to rock music and seems to be cheerful about his then much more mundane life. He hardly talked about Islamic fundamentalism.
There were not much indications about his militancy except for him sometimes telling his old war stories to close friends. Even when telling those stories, he did so in such a way that they sounds quite comical rather than them being a really dangerous experience.
It was around this time that he told friends that his family had arranged for him to get married with a very pretty girl from Kluang, Johor. He was said to be very much in love with the girl from the very first time he was introduced to her by family members.
He was very happy at the prospect of settling down and had vigorously looked for a better job to prepare for a family life. He finally landed a job with Telekom Malaysia sometimes before his wedding. This was in the mid 1990s.
Unknown to most of those close to him, even during this time, Zulkifli was still in contact with his former mujaheddin friends in Malaysia and Afghanistan. This was probably what led him down to the dark path in later years.
The rest of Zulkifli's story had been extensively covered by the newspapers and news agencies across the world.
Here is a bit of those from the Star yesterday -
PETALING JAYA: Zulkifli Abdul Hir, born in Muar in 1966, was a telecommunications engineer trained in the United States.
Zulkifli, whose aliases included Marwan and Musa, was believed to be the head of the Kumpulan Mujahidin Malaysia (KMM), accused of being a senior member of the regional terror network Jemaah Islamiyah (JI) and blamed for multiple bomb attacks in the Philippines.
He was a protege of JI bomb expert Dr Azahari Hussin, a Malaysian killed by an Indonesian anti-terrorism unit on Nov 9, 2005.
He was wanted for his role in leading KMM in a Southern Bank robbery in Petaling Jaya in May 2001, and the murder of Lunas assemblyman Dr Joe Fernandez and the bombing of a Hindu temple in Pudu, both in 2000.
He fled to Indonesia where he was believed to be involved in the Bali bombing in 2002, which claimed more than 200 lives. It is thought that he then escaped to Jolo Island in Southern Philippines in 2003.
In the Philippines, he cooperated with Abu Sayyaf and the Moro Islamic Liberation Front to attack and bomb several American interests and military bases there.
This led him to being placed in the top 10 list of the world's most wanted terrorists with a US$5mil (M15mil) bounty on his head.
He was also high on the Philippines police's wanted list after two of their personnel were killed in a clash when they attempted to approach his hideout near Manila in August 2006.
Marwan had also been accused of helping to secure funds and weapons for Abu Sayyaf from foreign donors.
In March 2010, the Philippines marines launched an assault against Marwan, killing at least seven al-Qaeda linked militants in a raid at Laminusa Island, off southern Sulu province.
However, he managed to escape.
In October last year, Marwan fled from a military assault by the Philippines, which killed three Abu Sayyaf commanders and two other militants near the Indanan town in southern Sulu province.
His brother-in-law, Taufik Abdul Halim, was caught when he tried to set off a bomb at Plaza Atrium in Jakarta in 2001.
However, he ended up losing part of his right leg when the bomb exploded prematurely.
This report by Star, some how missed the fact that Zulkifli's 48-year-old elder brother who had obtained US citizenship and was living there is currently detained in Guantanamo Bay after suspected of giving him financial assistance and other materials.