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Friday, February 15, 2002

 

Abu’s long-standing ties
to global terrorism bared

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.

Strange bedfellows

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.”

Angeles pals

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 movement.

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 Santos City.

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.

Reluctance

“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 European neo-nazis.

“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.”

Concerns

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 source stressed.

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 here.

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.

   
 
 
 

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Francis Andaya, Judee Perculeza, Marizhen Doctora
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