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US intelligence guides hunters of Abu Sayyaf

by AJLPP-USA Friday, Aug. 04, 2006 at 7:03 PM 213-241-0906 337 Glendale Blvd. Los Angeles, CA 90026

Guided by intelligence given by the US Army, Filipino troops on Thursday continued their assault on suspected lairs of the Abu Sayyaf in Jolo for the third straight day. The military is hot on the trail of Khadaffy Janjalani, the Abu Sayyaf chieftain, and two Jemaah Islamiya leaders, Umar Patek and Dulmatin.

US intelligence guides hunters of Abu Sayyaf

By Al Jacinto, Correspondent

ZAMBOANGA CITY: Guided by intelligence given by the US Army, Filipino troops on Thursday continued their assault on suspected lairs of the Abu Sayyaf in Jolo for the third straight day.

The military is hot on the trail of Khadaffy Janjalani, the Abu Sayyaf chieftain, and two Jemaah Islamiya leaders, Umar Patek and Dulmatin.

Maj. Gen. Gabriel Habacon, chief of the Southern Command, ordered the assault on the terrorist groups after verifying reports that members of the Abu Sayyaf were holed up in the town of Indanan.

“The Southern Command is conducting an extensive operation to drive out the terrorists permanently from the region,” Habacon said.

“We have been tracking them down, and now the time has come [to finish them off].”

According to reports, Patek is an Indonesian explosives expert, and Dulmatin is a Malaysian electronics expert.

Both JI members, the two are said to be behind the 2002 bombings of an establishment frequented by foreign tourists in Bali, Indonesia, during which 200 people were killed. Soon after, they also allegedly masterminded the bombing of the JW Marriott Hotel in Jakarta, also in Indonesia. They eluded a massive manhunt and fled in August 2003 to Mindanao.

“We have reports that the two JI bombers are in Jolo, but it is difficult to confirm if they are with the Abu Sayyaf fighting our soldiers,” said Army Col. Antonio Supnet, chief of staff of the Southern Command in Zamboanga City.

So far, Supnet said, three terrorists have been killed since the operation began on Tuesday. He added that five soldiers have been injured in the fierce fighting to flush out the terrorists from their hideout.

“The military offensive is going on without letup,” said the spokesman. He could not tell, however, if there were additional casualties.

The Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF), which controls Indanan, has assured the military it will deny the terrorist group sanctuary. The MNLF signed a peace accord with Manila in 1996.

A US Army contingent helps in the campaign by providing satellite snapshots of the area of operation. It happened to be in Jolo to conduct a joint antiterrorism exercise with Filipino soldiers when the Abu Sayaff was spotted.

“Our friends in the US military are helping us,” Supnet said. “They are not involved in combat operations, but they are providing us with intelligence support.”

Navy Cdr. Kathy Wright, a spokesman for the US military, said the American soldiers are also helping to evacuate wounded soldiers. She added that the assistance is being extended at the request of the host government.

A US EP3 Orion reconnaissance plane routinely flies over Jolo, presumably to spot the terrorists’ position, although the spokesman denied the speculation.

“Law-abiding citizens have nothing to fear about the plane,” she said. “It is just gathering weather data and forecast.”

The US government is equal ly eager to capture the remaining members of the Abu Sayyaf. It has included the group on the list of foreign terrorist organizations since it kidnapped three US citizens in 2001 and killed two of them in captivity.

The US is offering a -million bounty each for Janjalani and Dulmatin and million for Patek.

A scholar on terrorism in Southeast Asia, Zachary Abusa, says in a recent article that Dulmatin and Patek are training Filipino Islam fundamentalists in areas controlled by the Moro Islamic Liberation Front in Mindanao.

“Dulmatin is one of four top JI leaders—including Umar Patek, Zulkifli bin Hir and possibly Abdul Rahman Ayub—who continue to train members of JI and the Abu Sayyaf in MILF camps in the Philippines,” wrote Abusa.

He said Dulmatin was the target of the AFP when it bombed the Liguasan Marsh in Maguindanao in November 2004 and January 2005. He added that a hard-line MILF member was believed to have given him a sanctuary.

The AFP implicates the Afghanistan-trained Dulmatin in the March 2003 bombing of the International Airport and Sasa wharf in Davao City.

A bomb hidden in a backpack exploded at the airport terminal, killing 19 people, including a US missionary, William Hyde, and wounding more than 145 people. A second bomb ripped through a passenger terminal in Sasa wharf and killed and wounded dozens of people.

Three of his local Abu Sayyaf contacts—Pedro Guiamat, Ali Salipada and Norodin Mangalen—were arrested last year in Maguindanao.

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