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Philippines: Confirms Abu Sayyaf Head Killed In September January 20, 2007

Posted by notapundit in World News.
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MANILA (AP)–Khadaffy Janjalani, the head of the brutal al-Qaida-linked Abu Sayyaf group, died in a clash with troops four months ago, the Philippines government said Saturday, citing results from DNA testing done in the U.S.

The U.S. Embassy, which offered $5 million bounty for Janjalani for a series of attacks on U.S. citizens, said Janjalani’s death marks “an important and positive step forward in the ultimate goal of eliminating the ruthless and dangerous Abu Sayyaf group, and in destroying its links with international terrorist groups” such as Indonesian-based Jemaah Islamiyah.

The announcement came four days after U.S.-backed Philippine troops killed senior Abu Sayyaf commander Abu Sulaiman.

Janjalani’s death was confirmed after DNA tests in the U.S. compared tissue samples taken from remains found buried in the jungles of southern Jolo island in December with those of Janjalani’s imprisoned brother, military Chief of Staff Gen. Hermogenes Esperon said Saturday.

“The Armed Forces of the Philippines is proud to announce that we have neutralized the center of gravity of terrorism in the Philippines,” Esperon said in a news conference, hours after receiving a faxed report of what he called a conclusive DNA test conducted by the U.S. Federal Bureau of Investigation.

President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo congratulated the troops in the south, Esperon said.

“More than ever, this administration is determined to eliminate the pockets of poverty in the area to deprive extremists of recruiting grounds for terrorism,” presidential spokesman Ignacio Bunye said.

Police warned that the Abu Sayyaf could stage retaliatory attacks, but assured security measures were in place.

“It is like wounded animal or a fighting cock – it can still throw a kick. Even if it’s already dying, it can just suddenly retaliate,” said Romeo Ricardo, chief of the national police Intelligence Group. “We must remain alert for any retaliation.”

Janjalani had escaped from police detention in 1995, and three years later, took over as Abu Sayyaf chieftain after his elder brother, group founder Abdurajak Abubakar Janjalani, was killed.

He was killed in a clash with soldiers on Jolo on Sept. 4, about a month after the military launched a major offensive backed by the U.S. military, which provided training and intelligence support and in some cases, evacuated wounded Filipino soldiers, Esperon said.

The offensive on Jolo, about 950 kilometers south of Manila, targeted Janjalani, other Abu Sayyaf leaders, and two top Indonesian terror suspects – Dulmatin and Umar Patek. Dulmatin and Patek are blamed for the October 2002 Bali, Indonesia, bombings that killed 202 people, and also have provided bomb-making training to Indonesian and Filipino Muslim extremists.

Esperon said thousands of troops will continue pursuing Dulmatin and the others.

Janjalani and his key commanders have been accused of several deadly attacks in the Philippines, including a 2004 bombing that gutted a ferry, killing 116 people in one of Southeast Asia’s worst terrorist strikes.

They also carried out mass kidnappings, including the seizure of dozens of students and teachers on the southern island province of Basilan in 2000, and abduction of 17 Filipinos and three U.S. tourists – missionary couple Martin and Gracia Burnham and Guillermo Sobero – from a resort island in May 2001.

Sobero was beheaded by the militants and Martin was killed during a military rescue in June 2002 in which his wife was wounded.

Philippine army Special Forces troops and Abu Sayyaf gunmen clashed on Jolo on Tuesday and troops recovered the body of one of the militants, who was confirmed by the military the following day as Abu Sulaiman, who masterminded some of the group’s deadliest attacks.

Sulaiman, an engineer whose real name is Jainal Antel Sali Jr., was believed to be one of two possible successors of Janjalani. He also carried a $5 million bounty from Washington.

The deaths of Janjalani and Sulaiman leave Radulan Sahiron, a one-armed commander, Isnilon Hapilon and Abu Pula among the senior Abu Sayyaf veterans still active, along with about 400 followers.

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