normal_post - AP exclusive: Against great odds, Abu Sayyaf survives US-backed attacks - Philippine Laws Author Topic: AP exclusive: Against great odds, Abu Sayyaf survives US-backed attacks  (Read 711 times)

Brownman

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MANILA, Philippines - U.S. spy planes watch their jungle strongholds and Filipino assault troops keep them on the run. Combat casualties and arrests have eroded their numbers.

But Abu Sayyaf militants have survived years-long American-backed military assaults and remain a threat, reflecting the dilemma of defeating terrorism.

Suspicions quickly fell on the al-Qaida-linked militants for the June 8 kidnapping of popular TV news anchor Ces Drilon and her two-man crew on violent southern Jolo Island — the latest reminder of their unsettling tenacity and the danger they still pose.

The abductions stunned a nation accustomed to Drilon's face, and there were hopes she might be freed after one of her cameramen was released Thursday despite ransom demands.

The young Abu Sayyaf militants being linked by police to kidnappings are relative unknowns eager to replace commanders who have been killed, captured or hampered by age.

A few Islamic hard-liners and religious leaders organized the Abu Sayyaf with just one 30-caliber machine gun and four assault rifles on southern Basilan island in 1992. At its peak in 2000, the group had amassed about 3,000 members, including about 500 armed fighters, who were mostly jobless peasants with little combat training, according to a captured pioneer rebel commander, Abu Hamdie.

The Abu Sayyaf — or Bearer of the Sword — wrote its early history in blood, staging kidnappings, bombings and beheadings to draw attention, recruits and funds from al-Qaida.

American troops were dispatched to the troubled south in 2002 after Abu Sayyaf gunmen kidnapped nearly two dozen people from a resort, including three Americans, turning the region into a key theater in Washington's global war on terror.

Rare photos of the militants, a report on the interrogation of a recently captured Indonesian rebel ally and a confidential Philippine police terrorism report seen by The Associated Press depict a group struggling to cope with the loss of many of its leaders, funding and logistical shortages and battle setbacks.

But they also tell a disconcerting fact: Hundreds of militants have survived and are continuing to plot attacks.

More than 380 Abu Sayyaf fighters, with 298 firearms, are hiding mainly in the hinterlands of predominantly Muslim Jolo and nearby Basilan island, according to a police terror threat assessment.

Following the killing, in Jolo clashes, of Abu Sayyaf chieftain Khaddafy Janjalani and his presumed successor Abu Sulaiman in 2006 and 2007, respectively, the loose alliance of about six rebel factions has had no central leader, the police report said.

A foreign-trained commander, Yassir Igasan — valued for his crucial connections with Middle Eastern financiers — has declined to lead the group for unspecified reasons, the report said.

Mohamad Baehaqi, an Indonesian ally of the Abu Sayyaf who was captured in southern Davao Oriental province in February, told interrogators of planning bombings and kidnappings in March 2007 with two local militants, but couldn't follow through "because of financial and manpower considerations," a Philippine government interrogation report quoted him as saying.

Later, Baehaqi claimed to have been ordered by another Indonesian militant, Umar Patek, to bomb Roman Catholic cathedrals in southern Davao city and Jolo, with the explosives to be delivered by Patek's wife. Those attacks fell through because of funding problems and tight security in the targeted areas, he said.

Patek, a key suspect in the 2002 Bali nightclub bombings who is believed to be hiding in the southern Philippines, told Baehaqi that "financial support from Indonesia was getting hard to come by," he said.

The hardships were evident in two photos recovered by the army from a slain Abu Sayyaf commander last year. They show Janjalani, another top commander, Isnilon Hapilon, and about a dozen other militants cooking in a small, sooth-covered pot over a wood fire. One militant had bloodshot eyes; another had taken off his shirt in the jungle heat.

Hapilon was seriously wounded in a clash with troops April 30 in Jolo, according to the military.

Washington has offered a US$5 million reward each for the capture or killing of Janjalani, Hapilon and several other senior commanders.

Legally barred from local combat, U.S. forces have provided training and weapons to local troops and regularly fly surveillance aircraft over Basilan and Jolo, about 590 miles (950 kilometers), south of Manila, for any sign of the militants.

Baehaqi, the Indonesian militant, described the death of Janjalani, who the military said was killed in a gunbattle with marines in Jolo's jungles in September 2006.

Defying a suggestion to rapidly move back during the clash, Janjalani and three other militants instead tried to maneuver around the marines, after seeing some had been killed and wounded. As a result, he was fatally wounded in the neck, Baehaqi said.

The angered militants assaulted the marines but backed off again after one of them was hit by gunfire. A few rebels brought Janjalani's body uphill for a rapid burial.

With a militant videotaping the event, "They all kissed Janjalani's forehead before he was buried," Baehaqi said.

Using a two-way radio to monitor military conversations, the Abu Sayyaf gunmen dodged an airstrike and managed to escape from government forces, setting up land mines behind them as they ran away. - AP

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Lorenzo

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Addendum:

My response to this article: How can the Abu Sayaff be totally 'wiped out' if the source of the problem comes from growing Islamo-fascists from Malaysia and Indonesia. The military materiel the Abu Sayaff get are from hard-lining terrorist group 'Jeremiah Islamiya' which is a large terrorist islamo-fascist group centered in Indonesia and parts of Malaysia.

The porous border between the Philippines and Indonesia-Malaysia allows trafficking of materiel etc.

There also needs to be some kind of compliance between Malaysia and Indonesia to enforce its own borders.

Indonesia is incapable of doing it as its fighting multiple rebellions and insurgencies in its own territory. And well as for Malaysia--Malaysia's foreign policy with the Philippines is and will always be dubious. Malaysia wants a destabilized Philippines. A strong and stable militarized Philippines will enforce its claim on Sabah, which is Philippine territory that has been occupied by Malaysian squatters for almost 60 years now. Its clear and true politics.





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Lorenzo

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In my personal and honest opinion, it is a shame that the Philippine Air Force does not have enough bombers. I say let the PAF carpet bomb these islamo-fascist insurgents. These terrorist bomb, kidnap, hijack, decapitate, scare, and murder countless thousands of Filipino citizens in Mindanao. These terrorists are the ones that engage the military and attack villages and towns that the terrorists deem are being 'too friendly' to the Philippine Republic and its Armed Forces. What kind of people are they to do that? Disgusting.

 Any enemy of the Republic deserve only retribution.

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