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  1. #1
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    Default Philippines Terrorism: The Role of Militant Islamic Converts

    Philippines Terrorism: The Role of Militant Islamic Converts
    The Philippines’ small minority of terrorist converts resembles the threat of “home-grown” terrorism looming in developed countries since the 7 July London bombings. Like second-generation Muslims in Western Europe or Australia, converts move inconspicuously through their own urban landscapes but may also experience a deep sense of difference. This paradoxical combination can make them ideal recruits for foreign jihadis. The crucial difference in the Philippines is that this new threat is embedded in a civil war, and militant converts possess powerful domestic as well as regional and global allies...

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    Default US Intelligence Guides Hunters of Abu Sayyaf

    4 August Manila Times - US Intelligence Guides Hunters of Abu Sayyaf by Al Jacinto.

    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.

    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...

    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...

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    Default Atlantic article on Abu Sayef-"Jihadists in Paradise"

    In the latest issue of the Atlantic Mark Bowden details the hunt for Abu Sabaya, leader of the group that kidnapped Martin and Gracia Burnham. It is an interesting piece of reporting. Bowden describes the cooperation between U.S. military/intelligence and Philipino Army/Marines that leads to the destruction of Sabaya's cell.

    Here's the link: http://www.theatlantic.com/doc/200703/bowden-jihad

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    Council Member max161's Avatar
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    Default Bowden as fiction writer

    I did not realize Bowden wrote fiction!! But considering his source (singular not plural) I am not surprised.
    David S. Maxwell
    "Irregular warfare is far more intellectual than a bayonet charge." T.E. Lawrence

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    Default Clarification

    I'm not sure I follow your comment about Mark Bowden writing fiction. Could you clarify?

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    Council Member max161's Avatar
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    Default Fiction

    My comment about Bowden was meant tongue in cheek. However, much of what he attributes to Brig Gen Sabban is fiction. Arlyn Dela Cruz was a self serving reporter who wanted to be the story vice write about it. There are many, many inaccuracies, half truths, and spins of the facts in this article.
    David S. Maxwell
    "Irregular warfare is far more intellectual than a bayonet charge." T.E. Lawrence

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    Default Abu Sayyaf fighters speak out - 17-September-07

    The Philippines's military has been engaged in long-running offensive against the Abu Sayyaf, a group responsible for numerous killings in the south of the Philippines

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wToFtiJnji0

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    Default Abu Sayyaf group (historical, merged thread)

    From the BBC:

    http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/asia-pacific/7146565.stm

    Kudos to the Philippines Marines for the take down of this terrorist leader.

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    Council Member Dayuhan's Avatar
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    Default JI/ASG "merger": Dueling Experts...

    On one hand, this story has been getting a fair bit of play in Manila:

    http://newsinfo.inquirer.net/67043/j...iterror-expert
    Jemaah Islamiyah, Abu Sayyaf now merged, says antiterror expert

    The Jemaah Islamiyah (JI) regional terror network and the local Abu Sayyaf Group (ASG) in the Sulu Archipelago are already so integrated they operate almost as one organization, according to an international counterterrorism expert.

    The link between the JI and the ASG is “almost complete,” said Professor Rohan Gunarathna, head of the management staff of the International Center for Political Violence and Terrorism Research in Singapore...
    And for the other side:

    http://www.philstar.com/nation/artic...ticleid=732196

    Expert: No Abu Sayyaf, JI merger yet

    A counter terrorism expert today denied the accuracy of a report that the notorious Abu Sayyaf Group (ASG) and regional terror group Jemaah Islamiyah (JI) have already merged in Mindanao.

    In an interview with philstar.com, Rommel Banlaoi, chairman of the board and executive director of the Philippine Institute for Peace, Violence and Terrorism Research (PIPVTR), said the two groups have not yet reached the level of unification.

    ““It is not accurate to say that there is a merger of the two groups as of this moment,” Banlaoi said, but cited that the two terror groups have been attempting to join their forces in the south...
    I'll be curious to see if and how some of the experts I listen to (notably Zachary Abuza and Sidney Jones) weigh in on this one.

    My own take is that neither ASG nor JI have sufficiently coherent leadership to "merge" in any meaningful way: both are more diverse collections of splinter groups than coherent organizations. For JI in particular, it's a bit over the top to refer to their "forces" in Mindanao.

    Still, while the thought of a "merger" between ASG and JI may be a bit melodramatic, there are ASG splinter factions that are undoubtedly cooperating with the scattering of JI operatives who have taken refuge in Mindanao, and they could certainly make a mess. I don't see some new super organization emerging, but in many ways a small cell of core JI people and members of the fairly small Islamist faction within ASG would be a greater threat in the terror sphere than something larger and more visible. The bigger an organization is the more likely it is to be penetrated and compromised.

    In the past, military pressure on the ASG has shut down the profitability of the criminal operations, greatly reducing manpower (most are in it for the money and have little if any concern for political agendas). Paradoxically, that has made the organization more dangerous even as its overt force and footprint are reduced, as the core members remaining are more inclined to ally with more political organizations (such as JI) and to make their presence felt by acts of terrorism.
    “The whole aim of practical politics is to keep the populace alarmed (and hence clamorous to be led to safety) by menacing it with an endless series of hobgoblins, all of them imaginary”

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    Default

    Both analysts make fair points, and in some regards it is largely a matter or perception, because Rohan may mean something different by merge than we may be thinking. It is indisputable that there are links between ASG and JI in the southern Philippines. They have been linked for years because they have mutual interests and goals. Also agree with the other analyst that ASG is splintered, so if a group or two of the ASG has merged with JI elements in Mindanao does that mean there is no light between the two organizations? Our does it simply mean that individuals and sub groups from each organization have collocated and cooperate? I suspect the relationship is dynamic and constantly evolving. One thing for certain, while both groups have taken a serious pounding, neither of them is out of business, and we shouldn't confuse our tactical victories with strategic victory. Even is JI and ASG as we knew them historically are finished, new groups composed of former members will emerge. We'll know we won when the enemy tells us we have won, right now they're continuing to adapt to the security environment, which is good news for us because it is hard for them to act now, but we haven't heard the last of them.
    Last edited by Bill Moore; 10-01-2011 at 05:15 AM. Reason: Grammar

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    I think the risk here lies in clinging to the idea that we're still dealing with coherent organizations with set goals and interests. I don't really think that's the case. Certainly there are individuals and small clusters with the incentive and capacity to make a mess, and that needs to be dealt with, but it requires a different emphasis than what an organizational focus would suggest.

    ASG is a bit of an anomaly. The group has been most visible and drawn the most aggressive response when its political concerns and affiliation with international jihad have been at their lowest points: when the group was a high-profile bandit gang with a very nominal Islamist agenda. From a terror perspective, the group has been most dangerous when its criminal activities have been suppressed and the small Islamist core tries to track the remaining organization back to its jihadi roots. That happened in 2003/4, when Khadafy Janjalani was forced to run out to Cotabato. He ended up linking up with the Manila-based Rajah Solaiman Movement, composed largely of Filipinos who had converted to Islam while working in the Middle East, and the outcome was the 2004 Superferry bombing. That link looked to be a real problem for a while, but RSM was taken down, breaking the Manila link, and Janjalani was eventually killed as well. While there's currently no leader of KJ's visibility, it's certainly possible that someone with similar views might try a similar maneuver. It's entirely likely that a small cell composed of JI veterans and former ideological core members of the ASG might try for a high profile attack to put themselves back on the map and draw some resources, and a small cell would be in many ways more dangerous than a large organization.

    I'm not at all sure that "we", as in the US, can "win", because it was never really our fight to begin with. All of the conditions to support insurgency still exist in the Tausug/Sama region. What will result from those conditions remains highly uncertain. It would be superficially logical for the MILF to expand its influence into what is now a leadership vacuum, but the Maguindanao/Maranao dominance in the MILF has always been an obstacle to that. An MNLF resurgence seems equally unlikely. Some jihadi groups might try to pick up the slack, but they will have to focus on the local concerns and the local agenda to gain much traction: the populace really isn't much concerned with the global jihadi agenda.

    We'll see. Very hard at this point to say what will emerge, but it's not likely to be peace. Trying to analyze or understand the situation in an artificially imposed GWOT context is not going to produce any useful conclusion.
    “The whole aim of practical politics is to keep the populace alarmed (and hence clamorous to be led to safety) by menacing it with an endless series of hobgoblins, all of them imaginary”

    H.L. Mencken

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    Unfortunately our perceptions are shaped by GWOT (even though that title is no longer vogue), so instead of trying to understand the context we simply look to connect dots between individuals and AQ, and they're there. Those connections taken out of context as they are do give a very distorted picture. We could have closed shop after the Burhams were recovered, but the Philippines like other contingencies is another example of where we wait for the government to reform so we can leave, but perhaps by staying we are actually stalling that process. I have no idea how it will play out over the next few years (nor does anyone else).

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    Default easy to spot converts

    Hi:

    Yes, it is true that converts to Islam could pose a threat.

    But....being it traditionally Christian areas means they are fish out of water.

    Admittedly, islamist terrorists have already exploded a few bombs--and killed a number of Filipinos--in urban areas in the recent past.

    What is noteworthy, however, is that they are immediately or almost immediately caught.

    Islamic converts when they go back to the Philippines easily stick out in their neighborhoods. But in all fairness to them, I do know one in our middle class subdivision. We are friends and doubt if he has any inclinations to be a suicide bomber.

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    Council Member Stan's Avatar
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    Default Easy to spot converts

    Greetings Pinoyme !
    I tend to agree. My mother was from Singapore way back when either of us were even born. Not only Christian, but little tolerance for other ideals. My uncle and his wife now frequent Malaysia and according to their observations, things are even more strict than 50 years ago. Drugs ? Stone him to death !
    With that, what would happen to a fanatic on a roll ?

    Regards, Stan

    Quote Originally Posted by pinoyme View Post
    Hi:

    Yes, it is true that converts to Islam could pose a threat.

    But....being it traditionally Christian areas means they are fish out of water.

    Admittedly, islamist terrorists have already exploded a few bombs--and killed a number of Filipinos--in urban areas in the recent past.

    What is noteworthy, however, is that they are immediately or almost immediately caught.

    Islamic converts when they go back to the Philippines easily stick out in their neighborhoods. But in all fairness to them, I do know one in our middle class subdivision. We are friends and doubt if he has any inclinations to be a suicide bomber.

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    Interesting comments thus far, so please humor me as I follow this line of thought:

    Even if Islamic converts might stand out amongst the Catholics, how easy will it be for them to suppress their new principles of life, in order to participate in an attack?

    Take this a step further and look outside the Philippines for a moment. It's a fact of life that many Overseas Filipino Workers (OFWs) work world-wide, centered on the service and hospitality industries. Would the powers-that-be in Manila be concerned at all with these networks that have spread across the world?

    Not only is their purchasing power immense, OFWs have developed a very robust (although transparent) system to move money back to the PI. I curious if those networks are monitored, because it would seem that they are wide open to manipulation for nefarious means.

    I'm also curious how OFWs fare when trying to navigate the post-9/11 immigration/customs/visa regulations around the world. Are they equally restrictive if the OFW is from, say, Jolo or Mindanao?

    Perhaps Maxwell and Pinoyme have some insight.

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    Default The threat is real

    I will try to find the article that supports this line of thought, but Christians converting to Islam in the Philippines do not stand out from the crowd, especially if they are taught to keep a low profile. When they return to their homes, let's say somewhere in Luzon, they speak the local dialect, they wear the same clothes, they are probably well known in their community, and there is absolutely nothing abnormal about a Filippino or Filippina going to work in the Middle East. They provide at the very least an auxillary and probably an underground to help facilitate terrorists. Lets assume they also have been contacts and clandestine ways of communicating with them.

    Balik Islam is a threat, and beyond the physical threat it is interesting to note the large number of Filippionos who travel to the Middle East that convert from Catholicism to Islam. I read a couple of years back that this was happening in Mexico also, largely because the Catholic church didn't offer any explanations as to why they (the majority) are suffering in abject poverty, or offer a way ahead like the promise of Islam provides (so I'm told). This is perhaps the real threat long term, Western society is gradually being undermined.

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    Council Member jcustis's Avatar
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    pinoyme commented in another thread that he didn't know of any link between OFW presence in the Gulf States and jihadist extremism in the southern islands.

    While I agree that OFWs are primarily concerned with making money to support families back home, I'm not so sure that the connections aren't there. They may be miniscule, but I would offer that all it takes is one spark to start the fire.

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    Default Here's a starter

    http://jamaatubalikislam.jeeran.com/...st_muslims.htm

    today, Islamic world is faced with certain extremely threatening problems. The tightening encirclement of arrogant enemies equipped with political and military power and technology, and the imposition of corruption, prostitution, intoxicants and drug vices, gambling and all related components of the West's culture, which annihilates Islamic countries and/or may lose their Islamic identies.

    With Afghanistan and now Iraq and the Philippines crisis, present a unique opportunity to proceed towards the long-cherished goal of Muslim unity. An overwhelming majority of the Muslim states views the issue a grave one and favors some immediate action. The Muslim world must provide representation to Mujahideen in the various international bodies, supply resources to Mujahideen and build continue support for them through international media.
    http://www.manilastandardtoday.com/?...ial_may02_2005

    The arrest of Balik Islam recruit Dawud Santos last March 23 in Cubao, Quezon City led to a raid where 600 kg of explosives were seized.
    Not exactly your ordinary next-door neighbor, Santos has a brother, Akhmad, who heads the Rajah Solaiman Movement with links to the Abu Sayyaf Group that was all set to mount a major attack last Holy Week.
    Dawud posted bail last April 27. Curiously, he was arrested in May 2002 in a Balik Islam boot camp in Anda, Pangasinan but was released on bail.

    http://www.tkb.org/Group.jsp?groupID=4690

    The Rajah Solaiman Movement (RSM) is a terrorist organization dedicated to creating an Islamic state in the Philippines. The group represents a radical and militarized fringe of the greater “Balik Islam” (return to Islam) movement, which is made up of people who grew up as Roman Catholics that have since converted to Islam.

    RSM is relatively small in size, and most of its members converted to Islam through marriage or by virtue of their work environment as overseas contract laborers in the Middle East. Some members already have well-established reputations as Roman Catholics, and some do not take Muslim names as is customary for other converts. The membership is mostly made up of locals from the main Filipino island of Luzon, which gives RSM the advantage of local knowledge.
    This is just a sampling of hits found by typing Balik Islam into the MSN search engine. While it is far from being a doomsday scenario there are concerns that need to be addressed.

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    Default Holy Warriors

    The UK Channel Four documentary series 'Un-Reported World' latest report by Peter Oborne is on the fighting in Mindanao, between the MILF and others. Article: http://www.channel4.com/programmes/u...009/episode-12 and a podcast is available (hopefully available beyond the UK). Includes footage of a MILF assembly, of four hundred and new recruits motivation.

    There is some odd footage of a village destroyed allegedly by the Filipino army, but in the background are intact, inhabited houses as the reporter walks through burnt out concrete blocks buildings.

    I was not aware that post-1945 Christians have arrived on the island and the war can be seen as a local, sectarian conflict over land ownership. Christian militia are also visited and interviewed.

    Grim report.

    davidbfpo
    Last edited by davidbfpo; 10-03-2009 at 03:14 PM. Reason: Slowly built up as watching podcast.

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    Council Member Dayuhan's Avatar
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    Can't view it here... looked at the synopsis, though, and noticed this:

    A few kilometres further south, the Ligawasan marsh covers 3000 square kilometres of central Mindanao. It's at the heart of the war, and is home to many of the MILF units. And here Unreported World reveals that the conflict is not just about religious hatred - it's also a fight over land and mineral wealth. The area includes vast deposits of natural gas and oil worth billions of dollars. With so much at stake, Muslims and Christians are equally determined they will never surrender.
    Did they actually cite any evidence to support the allegations of "vast deposits of natural gas and oil"? This claim has been floating about for some time, generally without any serious supporting data. As far as I know, the area is regarded as promising but no meaningful exploration has ever been done due to the long-running security problems. It does make lovely fodder for all kinds of conspiracy theorists though.

    Quote Originally Posted by davidbfpo View Post
    I was not aware that post-1945 Christians have arrived on the island and the war can be seen as a local, sectarian conflict over land ownership. Christian militia are also visited and interviewed.
    This is one of the core issues of the conflict, especially in the MILF areas on the Mindanao mainland. During the 50s and 60s the Government ran homestead programs giving away Mindanao land to settlers, predominantly from the Visayas. The primary reason appears to have been alleviating agrarian unrest and overpopulation in the plantation-dominated sugar producing islands of Negros and Iloilo, though some claim that dilution of the Muslim majority was also intended. If that is the case, the goal was accomplished: Muslims are now a numerical minority in much of what they regard as their ancestral domain.

    When fighting started in 1970, the actual combatants were immigrant and indigenous gangs and militias. The government had an opportunity to send military forces in to keep peace and act as a neutral broker in the conflict, instead they took sides, fighting on behalf of the settlers. The consequences of that decision are still being felt.

    Many of the settlers are now in their 4th and 5th generations, and regard themselves as native to Mindanao. They have nowhere else to go. Most are poor, though their political leaders are quite wealthy (leaders on both sides use the conflict to justify their own control and their own corruption: "you need us to protect you from them" is a constant refrain). This situation makes a direct vote on autonomy or any ancestral domain issue complex, as the immigrant population, a majority, will vote against any such deal. Indigenous leaders claim that only the indigenous population should be allowed to vote on the question, a proposal that is naturally rejected out of hand by the immigrants. Adding to the complications, immigrant and indigenous villages are not geographically contiguous. A village-to-village vote on inclusion in an autonomous region would result in what has been called a "dalmatian region", obviously not manageable.

    Very ugly situation with no easy solutions...

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