Hello !
Recent Appearances... Rantburg

Southeast Asia
Three top terror leaders killed in the Philippines
At least 15 Islamic terrorists extremists, including three top leaders, were killed in an air raid in Sulu at dawn Thursday. Abu Sayyaf commander Umbra Jumdail, also known as Abu Pula, and Jemaah Islamiyah leaders Zulkifli bin Hir or Marwan, and Abdullah Ali, who uses the guerrilla name Muawiyah Anjala, were the senior leaders killed in the air strikes.

Zulkifli is a Malaysian leader of Jemaah Islamiyah, an explosive expert, and the over-all leader of the JI in the Philippines, said military spokesman Colonel Arnulfo Burgos. The US government has offered $5 million and P7.4 million reward for Zulkifli's capture.

Muawiyah, who goes by many aliases, is a Singaporean member of JI who fled to the Philippines shortly after the Bali bombings, according to a Philippine military intelligence source. He was a former member of the Singaporean military with the rank of Major. He was also a JI member affiliated with the Abu Sayyaf and had contact with Omar Patek, Burgos said. The US offered a $50,000 reward for his arrest.

Jumdail, a member of the Tausug ethnic group, is a founder and one of the top figures of the Abu Sayyaf group. He had warrants of arrest for 21 counts of kidnapping and serious illegal detention and was involved in the 2000 kidnapping in Sipadan, Malaysia and the 2001 kidnapping in Dos Palmas resort in Palawan.

In a press briefing, Burgos said that the composite unit with elite troops from the Philippine Army, Philippine Navy and the Philippine Air Force first launched an air strike in Barangay Duyan Kabau, Parang town in Sulu to "soften the target" at around 3 a.m. Thursday. That attack lasted for only a few seconds before troops stormed the terror group's temporary camp, Burgos said.

The air strikes were conducted following tips from civilians that there were Abu Sayyaf and JI members in the area. Burgos said there were also reports that 30 terrorists, including six foreign JI members, arrived in Sulu last December.

Burgos said that no civilians were hurt in the operations, saying that this was a "thorough and deliberate" operation done after "months of intelligence gathering." Burgos added, "We want to assure the people of Sulu that the operation conducted was aimed against known members of the terrorist groups--Abu Sayyaf and Jemaah Islamiyah-- who intends to expand their presence in Mindanao."

See also:
Deaths 'a terrific blow' to terrorism in the Philippines

Southeast Asia
Eight dead in clashes on Philippine hostage case
[Al Arabiya Latest] Two soldiers and six members of an Islamic militant group holding an Italian Red Cross hostage were killed in heavy fighting in the southern Philippines on Thursday, the military said.

There was no immediate confirmation on the physical state of Eugenio Vagni, the 62-year-old Italian who was abducted by the Abu Sayyaf along with two other aid workers--who have since been released unharmed--nearly five months ago.

A marine combat patrol came upon about 150 heavily armed Abu Sayyaf members near the town of Indanan on southern Jolo island at dawn, the military said. "A fierce firefight ensued and is still ongoing," Navy spokesman Lt. Colonel Edgard Arevalo said.

Two soldiers and six militants were killed, and four soldiers were wounded, he said.

He said the Abu Sayyaf unit was led by Albader Parad and Abu Pula, two senior commanders of the group thought to be holding Vagni. The Swiss and Philippine colleagues of the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) staffer were released separately in April.

Southeast Asia
Militants face kidnap charge
[Straits Times] POLICE have filed kidnapping charges against al-Qaeda-linked extremists who seized three two Red Cross workers in January and are still holding two hostages, officials said on Monday. The criminal complaint also named seven other people accused of supporting the militants. Among those charged with illegal detention were Abu Sayyaf commanders Albader Parad and Abu Pula and seven non-militants, including three policemen, on suspicion they provided ammunition and food to the Islamic militants, police Senior Superintendent Edwin Diocos said.

The International Committee of the Red Cross workers - Swiss Andreas Notter, Italian Eugenio Vagni and Filipino Mary Jean Lacaba - were kidnapped Jan. 15 after inspecting a jail water supply project on southern Jolo Island, a poor, predominantly Muslim region 950 kilometres south of Manila.

Abu Sayyaf gunmen led by Parad and Pula freed Lacaba last week without ransom but threatened to behead the remaining two if government troops did not withdraw.

Of those charged, only the non-militants have been arrested, police officials said.

'We have witnesses who said that they provided vehicles, food and ammunition to the Abu Sayyaf,' Mr Diocos told The Associated Press, adding that the seven denied the allegations.

Kidnapping for ransom is punishable by life in prison.

Mr Diocos, who heads a police investigation into the abductions, said the arrests of the seven Jolo villagers and policemen should deter others in Jolo from supporting the Abu Sayyaf, which is on a US list of terrorist groups for its al-Qaeda links and involvement in bomb attacks, kidnappings and beheadings.

Abu Sayyaf militants have demanded government troops pull back from at least five detachments near their jungle stronghold, which has been surrounded by marines, police and armed village guards. They threatening to behead the hostages if their demand was not met, officials said.

Jolo Gov. Sakur Tan, head of a government task force dealing with the hostage crisis, said officials may consider a limited withdrawal to allow negotiations for the hostages' release.

Southeast Asia
Bounty hunters join search for Abu Sayyaf terrorists
Bounty hunters have joined armed civilians in tracking down Abu Sayyaf terrorists who holding three kidnapped Red Cross workers in Sulu province in the southern Philippines, a security official said Monday. Officials said hundreds of civilians have armed themselves and have joined police and military in sealing off a huge area in the hinterlands of Indanan town where the Abu Sayyaf is keeping Swiss national Andreas Notter, Italian Eugenio Vagni and Filipino Mary Jean Lacaba.

The trio was kidnapped January 15 after inspecting water and sanitation projects at a prison in the town of Patikul. Many of the armed civilians are attracted with the huge bounties on the heads of Abu Sayyaf leaders Albader Parad and Abu Pula whose real name is Umbra Jumdail, and their followers, according to the official, who asked not to be named because he was not authorized to speak to reporters.

The United States has offered as much as US $5 million for known Abu Sayyaf leaders under the Rewards for Justice System. Manila also set aside P100 million rewards for the capture of Abu Sayyaf terrorists and their leaders – dead or alive. Many residents in Sulu were unaware of the huge bounties being offered by Washington and Manila on known Abu Sayyaf commanders, despite the killings of several of its top leaders the past years.

Sixteen of Sulu’s 19 mayors also signed a manifesto with Governor Sakur Tan giving their support to resolve the kidnapping crisis and at the same time condemning the Abu Sayyaf atrocities. Muslim religious and business groups also condemned the kidnapping of the three aid workers and other abductions in Basilan and Zamboanga City. Called the Sabiel Al-Muhtadeen Foundation, the group said “these are acts against humanity and against the teachings of Islam because Islam teaches peace, harmony and sobriety for all human beings at all time.”

Southeast Asia
Top Abu Sayyaf leader winged, top deputy waxed
Abu Sayyaf leader Umbra Jumdail alias Dr. Abu Pula was trying to retrieve the remains of his right-hand man Edimar Salip in the middle of a gunbattle with soldiers from the 33rd Infantry Battalion in barangay Tambaking, Maimbung, Jolo when wounded. “Dr. Abu Pula fell on several occasions but managed to escape minus his right-hand man,” Col. Antonio Mark Supnet, commander of the 104th Army Brigade, said. Later found in Salip’s possession was a Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF) identification card.

The US government is offering a P5-million reward to anyone who can provide information that will lead to the arrest or death of Jumdail. [He is] a paramedic expert and one of two senior Abu Sayyaf leaders. The other is Radulan Sahiron. Jumdail’s son Masdal was killed in the Thursday encounter which left 25 soldiers and 32 Moro rebels killed and several others wounded. Masdal was an aide of Abu Sayyaf commander Albader Parad.

Terror Networks
Albader Parad Whacked
The military is confirming reports that Abu Sayyaf leader Albader Parad had died from wounds suffered during a series of encounters with troops in Indanan, Sulu since Saturday. Troops earlier killed Abu Sayyaf chieftain Khadaffy Janjalani and terrorist commander Jainal Antel Sali Jr., alias Abu Solaiman.

Lt. Gen. Eugenio Cedo, Armed Forces Western Mindanao Command (Westmincom) chief, said troops are tracking down the remaining leaders of the Abu Sayyaf, among them Radulan Sahiron, Umbra Jumdail alias Dr. Abu Pula, Jul Asbi and Isnilon Hapilon, along with Jemaah Islamiyah bombers Dulmatin and Umar Patek.

"The operations continue to comply and meet the deadline to finish the Abu Sayyaf and the JI bombers who are still hiding in Sulu," he said. Cedo spoke to reporters during a visit to a military hospital where he awarded medals to Army Scout Rangers who were wounded in the encounter last Sunday.

At least eight of the 13 wounded Scout Rangers airlifted to Camp Navarro General Hospital were also given cash incentives by Cedo from Armed Forces chief Gen. Hermogenes Esperon. Cedo also belied reports that six soldiers were killed and two others were reported missing in action in fighting against the Abu Sayyaf and fighters of the Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF) in Indanan, Sulu on Sunday. It was improbable for the military to hide casualty figures because their immediate families are being notified, he added.

Southeast Asia
No strong successor to slain al-Qaeda-linked leader
The death of the Philippines' most-wanted terror suspect leaves the al-Qaeda-linked Abu Sayyaf insurgent group with no strong leader for now, security officials said Sunday.
Likely successors include a one-armed commander hobbled by arthritis and another who has rarely traveled beyond the mountains of two islands in the southern Philippines.
Likely successors include a one-armed commander hobbled by arthritis and another who has rarely traveled beyond the mountains of two islands in the southern Philippines. But two Indonesian terrorism plotters are thought to be with Abu Sayyaf and could provide training.

The Philippines military chief, Gen. Hermogenes Esperon, announced Saturday that Abu Sayyaf chieftain Khadaffy Janjalani had been killed in a clash with troops on Jolo island four months ago, citing results from DNA testing done by U.S. authorities. The announcement came four days after U.S.-backed Philippine troops on Jolo killed Abu Sulaiman, a senior Abu Sayyaf commander who had been seen as a possible successor to Janjalani. The two were the main contacts to Islamic militants in Indonesia and Middle Eastern donors who have provided funding and combat training, said Romeo Ricardo, chief of the national police's Intelligence Group.

With the U.S.-backed offensive still under way, more than 300 surviving Abu Sayyaf guerrillas will probably split into smaller groups to better evade troops and it may take time for the group to choose a permanent leader, Ricardo and the military said. A lifeline could be Umar Patek and the one-named Dulmatin, two Indonesians sought in their home country as the alleged masterminds of the 2002 nightclub bombings that killed 202 people on the resort island of Bali. They are believed to be still on Jolo with the Abu Sayyaf guerrillas and could continue to provide combat and bomb-making training while linking the group with outside Islamic militants, the military said. They also could help the militants choose a new leader, officials said.

A list of three lower-level Abu Sayyaf commanders that security officials consider the top candidates for top leadership was provided to The Associated Press by a military officer and a police official, who both insisted on anonymity because they were not authorized to talk to journalists. The first is Radulan Sahiron, a one-armed man in his 70s based in the forested mountains of Patikul on southern Jolo island. An ex-commander with the Moro National Liberation Front, a Muslim rebel group that signed a 1996 peace accord with the government, he is Abu Sayyaf's most senior fighter. He lacks Janjalani's local and foreign contacts, and he reportedly has often had to be hoisted onto a horse in recent years because of his many illnesses, including arthritis and diabetes. Washington has offered a $200,000 reward for his capture.

Also on the list is Isnilon Hapilon, another ex-MNLF commander, based in Lantawan on Basilan island. He is believed to lead 20-30 armed men and gained notoriety by helping Janjalani carry out major attacks, including the kidnapping of three Americans and 17 mostly Filipino tourists in 2001. One of the Americans was beheaded and another was killed during an army rescue. In his 40s or 50s, Hapilon is a rural-based fighter who has not ventured much beyond the mountains of Basilan and Jolo. Washington has offered a reward of up to $5 million for his capture.

The third man is Abu Pula, also a former MNLF rebel, based in Jolo's mountainous Indanan with an estimated 50 to 70 armed followers. He is called “Dr. Abu” by some people because of his purported ability to perform crude treatments on wounded guerrillas and ailing villagers. Pula, believed to be in his 50s, is not known to have extensive local and foreign militant contacts but he reportedly harbored Dulmatin and Patek for several months in his mountain stronghold last year. The U.S. has offered a reward of $100,000 for his capture.

Southeast Asia
Abu Sayyaf fleeing arrival of US troops in Sulu
Abu Sayyaf terrorists are reportedly running scared and have gone into hiding in anticipation of the arrival of US Special Forces troops in Sulu.

"The arrival of the US forces sent some psychological impact on the Abu Sayyaf and probably scared them away," said Maj. Gamal Hayudini, Armed Forces Southern Command information chief.

The arrival of US troops is part of the "Balikatan 2006" military exercises in Sulu, which are expected to start on the last week of this month or first week of February.

It will replicate the Balikatan in Basilan in 2002 where the Abu Sayyaf leadership was flushed out by Filipino troops backed by US technical assistance and advice.

However, the Balikatan in Sulu will focus on the development aspect to wage war against poverty.

Hayudini said since the military exercises were announced, government forces have not encountered any Abu Sayyaf band in the province.

The relentless military offensive has forced the Abu Sayyaf leadership to flee their jungle strongholds, he added.

However, Hayudini said the Abu Sayyaf might have broken up into small factions to escape the massive military manhunt.

"Perhaps they are just observing and in a wait-and-see position," he said.

The military cannot really say what the Abu Sayyaf commanders have on their minds "because these are terrorists," Hayudini said.

On the other hand, Brig. Gen. Alexander Aleo, anti-terror unit Task Force Comet chief based in Sulu, said the Abu Sayyaf might have been scared of the US Special Forces troops.

The Abu Sayyaf had split into small groups and are very mobile, unlike before when they were holding out in jungle camps, he added.

Aleo said the military is also ready to face any impending threat of the Abu Sayyaf against US troops participating in the Balikatan in Sulu.

Security measures have been set up to protect Filipino and American soldiers who will conduct humanitarian missions as what was done in Basilan in 2002, he added.

Aleo, Army commander in Basilan when the Balikatan 02-1 was staged in 2002, said while the military exercise was being held the offensive against the Abu Sayyaf was ongoing.

Armed Forces chief Gen. Generoso Senga has a standing order to "neutralize" the Abu Sayyaf leadership, he added.

Earlier, US Col. James Linder, Joint Special Operation Task Force-Philippines (JSOTF-P) chief, assured the military that the Balikatan in Sulu will be more of a humanitarian mission involving rehabilitation of schools, building of water wells, road rehabilitation, and the bringing of health facilities and medical mission to depressed and poor areas.

Marines and Army troops have been running after the remaining three top leaders of the Abu Sayyaf in Sulu.

They are Radulan Sahiron, Umbra Jumdail alias Dr. Abu Pula, and the youngest leader Albader Parad, who were dislodged from their camps in Karawan complex in Indanan and Patikul towns in Sulu.

There are reports that Abu Sayyaf chieftain Khaddafi Janjalani and two of their leaders Isnilon Hapilon and Jainal Antel Sali alias Abu Solaiman have sneaked into Sulu after slipping out of Central Mindanao.

However, the military is verifying information that the elusive Janjalani has been moving around in Basilan and Sulu to escape pursuing troops.

Southeast Asia
Abu Sayyaf Sulu stronghold overrun
GOVERNMENT troops stormed Friday a suspected Abu Sayyaf hideout in the southern Philippine island of Jolo, Sulu province, barely two days after 26 people were injured in twin bombings here blamed to the militant group tied to al-Qaeda terror network, officials said.

Officials said a still undetermined number of militants were either killed or wounded, but a government soldier was also injured in the fierce fighting that erupted in the hinterland of Indanan town.

"One of our soldiers was injured and initial reports suggested that many terrorists were either killed or wounded. Fierce fighting is still going on," said Brigadier General Alexander Aleo, the island's military commander.

Troops stormed a suspected Abu Sayyaf hideout in Tarang village after intelligence reports said two militant leaders, Albader Parad and Umbra Gumbahali Jumdail, alias Dr Abu Pula, were spotted there.

"It was not immediately known if Parad and Jumdail were killed or wounded in the attack, but we will get all of them dead or alive," the general said.

The duo were among a dozen known Abu Sayyaf leaders wanted by the United States in connection with the killing of Californian tourist Guillermo Sobero in 2001 and Kansas missionary Martin Burham in 2002.

Government forces captured early this year Parad and Jumdail's jungle camp in Jolo's Karawan mountain complex after killing and wounding more than three-dozen militants in two weeks of fierce fighting.

Authorities blamed the Abu Sayyaf and its ally the Jemaah Islamiya in Wednesday bombings in Zamboanga City that destroyed several buildings in the busy business district and is notorious for kidnapping foreigners and local traders in the southern Philippines and holding them for hefty ransoms.

The government offensive came barely a day after President Gloria Arroyo condemned the bombings and ordered the police and military to get to the root of the attacks and bring their perpetrators to justice.

A police spokesman, Leopoldo Bataoil, on Friday said they would mount pre-emptive strikes against the Abu Sayyaf group and their allies. "We will hold pre-emptive strikes and hunt down terrorists in their known hideouts," he said.

National Security Adviser Norberto Gonzales earlier said at least 10 Indonesian Jemaah Islamiya bombers are in the Philippines and were planning to mount a series of attacks and claimed the latest explosions could be part of a larger terror plot.

Security forces are on heightened alert in the southern Philippines following the two Abu Sayyaf bombings. Soldiers and policemen, backed by armored vehicles, were spotted patrolling downtown Zamboanga since the bombings.

The first bomb, planted under a parked mini-van along Campaner Street. in downtown Zamboanga, exploded around 7.20 p.m., wounding a group of civilians. The powerful blast destroyed the van completely and damaged two small buildings nearby. A second explosion 30 minutes later ripped through the second floor of a three-storey building in Climaco Street just 50 meters away from the main police headquarters.

No group claimed responsibility for the explosions, but military and police blamed the bombings to the Abu Sayyaf group, tagged in previous attacks in the south that killed and wounded hundreds of people the past decade.

Last week, security forces arrested here an Abu Sayyaf bomb-maker Alex Alvarez, who is blamed for the series of bombings since 2002 that killed dozens of people, including a US soldier participating in an anti-terror training with Filipino troops.

Authorities suspect the attacks were in retaliation for his arrest.

-9 More