Friday, December 29, 2006

Special report: Bloody tale of the Abu Sayyaf’s notoriety

COTABATO CITY (John Unson / Dec 29) - If Abu Sayyaf chieftain Khadaffy Janjalani is really dead, his death will only cause a major setback for his notorious group, but will never mean its end.

This is how many analysts and peace advocates here believe, though still weary on whether it was indeed Kahadaffy’s remains the Marines had unearthed three days ago in Barangay Kabuntakas, a secluded district in Patikul, Sulu.

The youngest among Janjalani siblings, who were born and raised by their parents in Isabela, Basilan, the leader of the Abu Sayyaf group (ASG) was feared for his ruthlessness against enemies.

Kahadaffy merely assumed the leadership of the ASG after his older brother, Ustadz Abdurajak Abubakar Janjalani, was killed in a brief gunbattle with policemen in a coastal village in Basilan in 1998.

Abdurajak first underwent guerilla training in Kandahar , Afganistan, before joining in the 1980s the mujahideen forces that fought the then Soviet-backed regime of Afgan President Mohammad Najibullah.

A member of the Moro National Liberation Front, who was a key staffer of jailed MNLF founder Nur Misuari when he was still governor of the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao, said Abdurajak stayed long in Pakistan to study Islamic theology in one of the schools there prior to his sojourn to Afganistan.

“He was a very good baker. He worked part time in a bakery in Pakistan while we were studying there. We even asked him to teach us how to bake bread. We learned from him that he had worked as a baker while in Isabela, where he grew up,” the source, who asked not to be identified, said.

Abdurajak, according to the source, then never showed signs he would rise as a leader of a group both Mindanao ’s Muslims and Christians would fear.

The soft-spoken, silent-type Kadaffy was still a minor when Abdurajak was abroad.

There are neighbors of the Janjalanis in Isabela claiming to have been shown by Abdurajak photos of him and a “a very wealthy Arab mujahideen,” purportedly Osama bin Laden, the man who could have recruited him into joining the forces that fought the Afgan-backed government in Afganistan in the early 1980s.

Local preachers who studied abroad said Bin Laden, indeed, operated a recruitment office for the Afgan mujahideen forces somewhere in Peshawar , Pakistan in the early 1980s.

When Abdurajak returned to the country in the early 1990s, he wasted no time in organizing a tightly-knit group aimed at propagating da’awah (preaching) activities as a pretext to putting up a puritan Islamic community in Mindanao .

Abdurajak established a 15-member “council of emirs,” and enlisted a preacher named Amilhussin Jumani as its senior adviser.

From 1990 to 1992, Abdurajak established a core group composed of 10 units, support, under Ustadz Benhamad; security, under Calona Mutalan; finance, under Bashier Latiff; operations, under Omar Gahalin; supply, under Jalali Bakal; recruitment, under Basiri Jillang, urban sector, under Abdullah Jainal; planning, Edwin Angeles, also known as Ibrahim Panduga; intelligence, under Abdulhamad Samad; and logistics, under Amiludin Muin.

Samad and Muin were to be arrested by government agents in June 3 and, subsequently, June 10, 1994 respectively. Angeles, who surrendered to the government, was briefly incarcerated in Camp Crame and was gunned down in Isabela, while coming out of a mosque, after Abdurajak was killed by policemen.

Angeles was then a strong contender for the post left vacant with the death of Abdurajak. There has been no information on the whereabouts now of the other pioneer members of the units the slain ASG founder established.

Khadaffy was never a part of a any of the ASG’s 10 pioneer units. Neither was he allowed by Abdurajak to join the ASG’s four operating arms, the hit squad, led by Ustadz Wahab Salajin, demolition, under Ustadz Munap Salajin, the mujahideen sector, under Ramon Sangkula Hassan, and training section, under a certain Mustapha, believed to be a preacher trained in Egypt.

The operating units of the ASG first had its “baptism of fire” when its members perpetrated the bombing in the early 1990s of the M/V Doulos in the Zamboanga City port, and, subsequently, carried out the murder of Italian priest Salvatorre Cardezza in a nearby district on May 20, 1992.

As the ASG spread its wings in the Basilan, Sulu and the Zamboanga peninsula, Abdurajak also hopped from one Southern island to another, preaching and encouraging Muslims to rise and fight for an independent Islamic state in the region.

“He was an eloquent speaker. He spoke well of the verses in the Holy Qur’an and used certain verses to justify his quest for a Muslim state in Mindanao and as excuses for the ASG’s use of violence to pursue its objectives,” another MNLF member, who hails from Sumisip, Basilan, told The Cagayan de Oro Journal.

As a preacher, Abdurajak spoke ill of the Philippine government and the United States , like his benefactor, bin Laden, who was rabidly against US foreign policies too.

Part of the ASG’s ploy to catch international attention then was the abduction, one after another, of local and foreign Christian missionaries, among them Catholic priests and nuns, to project the “religious dimensions” of its bid for an Islamic state in the South.

The group, apparently aimed at catching the attention of the United States , abducted in 1994 linguist Charles Walton in Sulu, while studying there the Tausog and Sama dialects.

As a preacher, Abdurajak spoke ill of the Philippine government and the foreign policies of the United States .

He was said to have attempted to expand the ASG’s operation in Central Mindanao , but was reportedly rejected by the secessionist Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF), whose leader then, cleric Hashim Salamat, was keen on preventing “contamination” of his group with any influence from terrorist organizations.

Salamat’s position of furthering his bid for Moro-rule in Mindanao, was more premised on the framework of unity and co-existence with all sectors in the south, under the Islamic context of inter-faith solidarity and economic advancement that would not displace, but rather empower Mindanao ’s native Moro and other indigenous groups.

MILF insiders said Salamat’s principles and vision of “peace with justice” for Mindanao ’s Moro, Lumad and Christian groups are being carried on by his successor, Al-Haj Murad Ebrahim, who assumed the front’s leadership after Salamat’s demise in 2004 in Butig, Lanao del Sur.

Peace advocates, among them Catholic priests, are certain, it was for the MILF’s being a revolutionary organization and different in its religious and political convictions from the ASG that forced Khadaffy out of Central Midanao , where he hid from June to November 2005 to escape from government offensives against him in the Zamboanga peninsula.

Sources from Basilan, some of them local officials, said it was during the ASG’s plunder of Ipil, Zamboanga del Sur on April 4, 1995, where the young Khadaffy, already a combatant and a close-in security aide of Abdurajak, underwent his most crucial initiation in combat.

Abu Sayyaf fighters arrived at Ipil on board trucks and pumpboats that landed on its coasts, attacked the town proper, killed 42 civilians, seven soldiers and six policemen, and, before they fled, set 53 commercial establishments on fire. More than a hundred residents, trapped in the crossfire between the local police and military, were wounded in the attack.

Most of Khadafy’s followers were either children of MNLF fighters who perished in the so-called Mindanao conflict during the 1970s, or victims of abuses of the Marcos Regime, when the country was under martial law.

Misuari, while ARMM governor from 1996 to 2001, has repeatedly urged Malacañang to include in the Mindanao peace process special, extensive programs aimed at rebuilding the lives of victims of human rights abuses, quality education for the so-called “orphans of conflicts,” and employment that would give them jobs for them not to resort to religious extremism that tend to undermine the efforts of fostering peace and sustainable development in the south.

“Religious extremism is a concern now confronting Mindanao ’s moderate Muslims, which is strongly against terrorism. There are radical Islamists in schools, even in government offices,” said a ranking education official in Central Mindanao.


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