By Dorian Zumel Sicat
Abu Sayyaf bandits were involved in
international terrorist operations that targeted American
facilities long before the Sept. 11 attacks that sparked US
President George W. Bush’s global campaign against the
al-Qaida and its allies.
Philippine defense and police intelligence
sources told THE MANILA TIMES that Abu Sayyaf leaders had met
with terrorist masterminds of several atrocities just before
US targets were hit.
Although Philippine authorities advised
American authorities of the alliance between the Abu Sayyaf,
Osama bin Laden’s al-Qaida, and American neo-nazis, the US
appeared to ignore the warnings; until Sept. 11.
But according to the sources, who have
requested anonymity, investigations have been reopened, and in
silence, about the relationship between neo-nazis, right-wing
Christian groups, the Nation of Islam (Black Muslims—NOI), the
Abu Sayyaf, and al-Qaida.
This, the sources pointed out, was what
prompted the Philippine government to accept US military aid
in the form of Balikatan in Basilan.
The Abu Sayyaf and other Muslim insurgent
groups are no longer just internal Philippine problems, the
sources stressed. They have become part of a global terror
network that includes “very strange bedfellows.”
Before slain Abu Sayyaf Group (ASG)
co-founder Edwin Angeles surrendered in 1994 to military
authorities at the Armed Forces Southern Command (Southcom) in
Zamboanga City, he met with Ramzi Youssef, convicted
mastermind of the first World Trade Center bombing in 1993.
That meeting, which also had four other
Filipinos and foreign Muslim extremists, was unique—in that
the group was meeting for the last time with Oklahoma City
bombing accomplice Terry Nichols.
Nichols had married Filipino women but he
was a strange ally, being a member of the American ultra-right
But even before that, in 1993, when the Abu
Sayyaf was in its infancy, the same group met with Nichols and
another American—believed to have been executed Oklahoma City
bomber Timothy McVeigh—at a Dole labeling plant near General
Spilling the beans
According to the defense intelligence
source, while under tactical interrogation, Angeles told
National Bureau of Investigation (NBI) and Philippine National
Police (PNP) officials that the subjects at the 1994 meeting
were actual terror targets. He mentioned the Federal Building
in Oklahoma City, bombed April 19, 1995, and another, more
damaging attack on the twin towers of the World Trade Center
in New York.
It became clear that an international terror
cell had been established in the Philippines.
Philippine cops arrested an accomplice of
Youssef in 1995, while trying to track down members of an
assassination plot on visiting Pope John Paul II. Youssef was
later arrested in Pakistan, an operation that owed a lot to
Philippine intelligence inputs.
“It took Sept. 11 to unleash a
‘no-stones-unturned’ campaign against global terrorism,”
confirmed a top-ranking police officer who regularly liaisons
with American anti-terrorist officers.
US officials, he added, have privately
admitted they knew for sometime that the Philippines was a
primary service and training area for jihad (holy war)
terrorists and other terror groups, including American and
“The US knew all along that McVeigh,
Nichols, and other rightists have had a tactical alliance with
the Abu Sayyaf,” a confidential source in Boulder, Colorado
also told the Times.
“But to go after the Abu Sayyaf in the
Philippines would be a violation of your country’s
sovereignty. The joint military training exercises (Balikatan)
present a legitimate excuse for clandestine US operations
against the Abu Sayyaf.”
However, the US-based source said the Abu
Sayyaf is only part of the problem.
“It’s only the wagging tail. The head
remains hidden in Ermita, Davao City, General Santos City, and
in America’s heartland. Going after the Abu Sayyaf is like
cutting off a lizard’s tail. It will only grow a new one,” the
While Philippine officials blame Americans
for inaction, US authorities told THE TIMES they are bothered
by the failure of the local intelligence community to conduct
preemptive operations against the nests of global terrorism
Volumes of documents, many of which are
court documents, establish enough evidence that the
Philippines is a major service area for global terrorists, not
all of whom are Muslim. Had both the US and the Philippines
acted in preemptive operations to break the terror networks
here, they could have prevented the carnage of Sept. 11, the
American source admitted.