Aiming At The Real Terrorists
edited: Thursday, November 28, 2002
By Mars W. Mosqueda Jr.
Posted: Thursday, November 28, 2002
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Recent bombings in Mindanao and Manila have put authorities in the Philippines on alert. But guided by fear, the concern is that government forces may have the wrong targets in their sights.
The Philippine government knows it cannot be complacent amid reports that the country is among the primary terrorist’s targets in Southeast Asia. And there are a number of reasons to take this threat seriously. One, the Philippines is among the United States’ staunchest allies in its global campaign against terror; two, Muslim rebels and bandits in Mindanao are fighting the national government, and; three, Mindanao has, for over a decade, been a training ground for foreign terrorists.
And just recently, with so much maneuvering going on – news reports, rumors, debates, preparations and operations – the perpetrators of the recent bombings in Mindanao and Metro Manila are making Filipinos quite afraid. But there are too many suspects. Many groups would benefit from scaring the population or embarrassing the government, or both. And with the apparent failure of the military and police intelligence to find the real perpetrator, speculations abound.
Earlier, Defense Secretary Angelo Reyes had received information from US security officials that Mohammed Mansour Jabarah, a Canadian arrested for his alleged links to al-Qaeda, told American interrogators that the terror group had planned to plot the attacks in different targets on the Philippines.
A CNN report said Jabarah revealed to US interrogators that al-Qaeda had planned to attack the US and Israeli embassies in the Philippines, through its local contacts, after a plot to bomb Western targets in Singapore was discovered and foiled by authorities early this year.
The report about Jabarah’s confession was followed by the discovery of another terrorist plot, which included the assassination of Indonesian President Megawati Sukarnoputri as well as "truck-bomb" attacks in Indonesia, Malaysia, Singapore, Vietnam, Taiwan, Cambodia, and the Philippines, particularly Mindanao.
The police have some suspects in their custody whom they are convinced are behind the recent terrorism activities in the country. And unsurprisingly, the suspects have been tagged as Abu Sayyaf, which prefers kidnapping for money to bomb attacks.
One group under serious consideration has already been disavowed by its alleged leader, yet its name keeps surfacing in connection with these recent attacks in the Philippines and other Southeast Asian countries. Jemaah Islamiah (JI) has been declared a terrorist group by the government of Indonesian President Megawati Sukarnoputri following the bombing that killed nearly 200 people in Bali on Oct 12. JI has been blamed for the blast.
The suspicion of the group’s involvement in the recent bombings has been fueled by the confession of Indonesian terrorist Fathur Rohman al-Ghozi, who was detained in Manila following his arrest. He earlier claimed that the JI leader slipped into the country in Dec 2000 to help plan the simultaneous bombings in Metro Manila on Dec 30 of that year. At least 22 people were killed and 96 injured in the attacks at the Ninoy Aquino International Airport in Pasay City, the Light Railway Transit stations in Manila and Caloocan City, and a passenger bus in Quezon City.
Another confession made by al-Ghozi has shocked the Philippine government, as well as the US—which was sending troops to the country under the guise of war games but which were really partly aimed at wiping out the Abu Sayyaf bandits. The confessed terrorist has accused another local secessionist group, the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF), of having links with JI.
These revelations triggered the US government’s offer earlier this year to send more American troops to the actual combat zones in Mindanao and expand the target of Abu Sayyaf bandits to include the MILF fighters as well. But President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo, knowing that such a move would further inflame the anti-American groups, reminded the US leader that the US soldiers’ role in the campaign in southern Philippines should be limited to training the Philippine military against Abu Sayyaf.
The MILF’s alleged links not just to the Abu Sayyaf but even to the international terror network of al-Qaeda and Jemaah Islamiah have been underscored by the Western press and the US government. But while the MILF is availing itself of al-Qaeda support is lamentable if true , its reclassification as a terrorist group on the same league as Osama bin Laden merely suits Washington’s insistent and sweeping war against terror.
That policy has been unwisely promoted by Philippine officials, especially President Arroyo, who was commended during a ceremony at the White House by US President George W Bush, during the sixth-month anniversary of the events of Sept 11.
For Arroyo, Bush’s praise is a truly flattering commendation – the subtext of which is that he is pleased with her government’s doing his bidding in the archipelago. And for Bush, his own war against terror is a truly worthy cause. But in the self-righteousness that Washington shares with the Arroyo government, Washington fails to see the consequences created by its noble war, which is being carried out in the usual imperialistic fashion. As a local newspaper noted, "The War on Terror… is increasingly being seen not as a just cause, but as something more sinister."
Washington’s policy, as it is being applied in the Philippines, threatens to run over such genuine concerns as the causes behind Muslim secessionism, the MILF’s avowed objective.
"The MILF could never be allied with the Abu Sayyaf because we have a different agenda," said the group’s spokesman, Eid Kabalu. "We are a legitimate revolutionary organization, not a bunch of money-hungry kidnappers allied with international terrorists."
The MILF was formed in the early 1980s as a breakaway portion of the Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF), led by Nur Misuari who is now being detained on rebellion charges. It distanced itself from the main group when the MNLF accepted the government’s autonomy offer.
The Abu Sayyaf is more of a bandit gang than anything else, but the MILF, with an estimated 12,000 members, has deeper roots in Islamic radicalism. The strongest evidence linking the Abu Sayyaf to bin Laden involves a brother-in law of bin Laden, Mohammad Jamal Khalifa, who was active in the area until 1995, allegedly funneling money through Muslim charities to activists.
Kabalu lamented the military’s "creating a scenario of renewed attacks at the expense of the MILF." Indeed, despite the frightening impression that the military, taking its cue from the Western press, has been making of the separatists, the MILF leadership has been curiously less than confrontational in its statement.
Ghazali Jaafar, the MILF’s political affairs chief, said "it would be very important" that the government investigate the recent attacks, "because it would determine once and for all who started the encounters and terrorist acts attributed to the MILF."
But arrested terrorist Al-Ghozi had strongly admitted that the MILF was responsible for the December 2000 bombings of bus terminals and gas stations in Metro Manila (and could possibly be involved in the recent bombings in Mindanao and Manila). These bombings, he added, were sponsored by the JI.
Whether Al-Ghozi was being truthful or not, there is no denying one fact: Discounting those that have been traced to extortionists, most of the recent bombings in the Philippines follow a pattern that indicates that only one group is behind them – at least in planning and coordinating them for a political purpose, if not carrying them out themselves.
The bombing of a passenger bus in Quezon City on Oct 18 resembled a series of attacks in Metro Manila on Dec 30, 2000 that were attributed to JI, which strives to set up a pan-Islamic state in Southeast Asia. The materials and devices used in making and detonating the bombs, the men who organized the attacks, and news reports citing intelligence sources all point to the same group: Jemaah Islamiah, who allegedly has connections with the local MILF group.
This should serve as a reminder to the authorities, here and abroad, that al-Qaeda, JI and other international terrorist groups are very much alive amid rumors that bin Laden might be dead. And in the Philippines, sleepers of international terrorist groups are reported to have joined some local groups and blended into the community, awaiting instructions to commit terrorism by their superiors.
But this does not give the Philippines and the US government absolute power to run after any local groups suspected of having links with international terrorists. Active players on the war against terrorism, like the US and the Philippines, should carefully and responsibly select their targets to avoid running over such genuine concerns as the real causes behind Muslim secessionism. Before declaring war against local secessionist groups, the US and the Philippines should first see to it that their guns are aimed at the real terrorists.
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|Reviewed by J Michael Kearney
|Extremely well written.
You're right, "But this does not give the Philippines and the US government absolute power to run after any local groups suspected of having links with international terrorists. Active players on the war against terrorism, like the US and the Philippines, should carefully and responsibly select their targets..." The U.S. is currently dealing with the potential for overreaching by its own Department of Homeland Securtity and other realted legislation.
|Reviewed by Ludwig Stockton
|This is realitistic. Nicely presented. I've never been to the Philippines but can very well feel the tension that's going on in there through this article|
|Reviewed by Amy Rollera
|Awesome! I love you baby. c",)|