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Philippines: Rebel Group on the Run
DNA tests confirm death of Abu Sayyaf leader
Alex Argote (alexphil)     Print Article 
Published 2007-01-22 06:03 (KST)   
The Armed Forces of the Philippines, with the training assistance of United States personnel, is beginning to make headway in its battle against terror as thousands of Filipino soldiers hunt remnants of a militant separatist group in the remote jungles of southern Mindanao.

More than four months after a fierce battle in southern Jolo, Philippine authorities have said that DNA tests on a body found in December was that of the leader of Abu Sayyaf, Khadaffy Janjalani.

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"The tempo of our offensives now will be faster and more ferocious," a triumphant Gen. Hermogenes Esperon, Jr., said as he crossed-out a picture of Khadaffy Janjalani on a most wanted list during a press conference on Saturday.

"We have neutralized the center of gravity of terrorism in the Philippines with the demise of the Abu Sayyaf top leader," Esperon said.

The Philippine general revealed that the DNA tests were conducted by the United States Federal Bureau of Investigation, which obtained a specimen from a body buried in a shallow grave in Patikul, Jolo. The FBI compared the samples to a member of Khadaffy Janjalani's family, a jailed murderer and kidnapper named Hector.

The medical examinations that confirmed Khadaffy Janjalani's death were witnessed by three officers of the Philippine National Police crime laboratory.

It took several months for FBI forensic specialists to confirm that the elusive terrorist leader had indeed been killed in the September firefight. Several Philippine marines were also killed in that battle.

The announcement comes four days after another top-ranking Abu Sayyaf leader, Abu Sulayman, was killed in savage fighting with government security personnel.

According to Philippine military intelligence sources, Abu Sayyaf was founded by Khadaffy Janjalani's older brother Abdurajik Abubakar Janjalani, a former MNLF (Moro National Liberation Front) fighter who saw action in Afghanistan as a Filipino mujahedin.

Abubakar Janjalani was said to have met Al Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden, who initially gave him funds to start an Islamist movement in Mindanao. Upon his return to the Philippines, Abubakar Janjalani formed the Abu Sayyaf (which means bearer of the sword) with a core group of hard-core MNLF rebels in the Jolo archipelago about 950 kilometers (589 miles) from Manila.

While the MNLF under Nur Misuari fizzled out and cooled into a political organization in Mindanao, the Abu Sayyaf, composed of radical former MNLF guerillas and led by Abubakar Janjalani, soon became one of the most brutal terrorist organizations the world has ever seen.

In 1995, the Abu Sayyaf group became involved in a spate of bombings and attacks across the Philippines. Intelligence reports said that the group had links with Ramzi Yousef, who was responsible for the 1993 World Trade Center bombing.

Sometime during the first half of the 1990s, Khadaffy Janjalani, then an adventurous teenager, joined the group. During an early operation, Khadaffy Janjalani was captured by government soldiers and imprisoned in Manila.

In April 1995, Abu Sayyaf gained notoriety with their surprise amphibious assault on the prosperous farming town of Ipil, in Zamboanga province, southern Mindanao. The attack left hundreds of townspeople dead and Ipil was reduced to a community of smoldering ruins where distraught widows and orphans wailed over the bodies of their dead relatives.

That same year, Khadaffy Janjalani escaped from prison under still unknown circumstances.

The Philippine government launched a full-scale military operation to bring the Abu Sayyaf terrorists to justice. On Dec. 18, 1998, Abubakar Janjalani was cornered and killed by pursuing elements of the Philippine National Police in Basilan Island.

Khadaffy Janjalani soon took command and led Abu Sayyaf into a life of banditry and slaughter. During his violent and bloody leadership, the group regressed into a gang of kidnappers instead of an ideological organization. Khadaffy and his henchmen seized hundreds of Filipinos and even some foreigners as hostages and demanded astronomical ransoms for their release.

A Filipino Catholic priest was captured at gunpoint from a school in Basilan and taken to the group's mountain lair, where he was tortured. Together with Filipino teachers and nurses, the unfortunate priest was soon executed.

The group's next operation was a daring kidnapping of Filipinos and foreigners in the Palawan Beach resort of Puerto Galera. The heavily armed guerillas, riding ultra-fast sea craft that they bought with ransom money from profitable kidnappings, eluded pursuing government troops and brought their captives to the remote forests and mountains of Jolo. Among their captives was the American missionary couple Martin and Gracia Burnham.

The Philippine military combed the entire Basilan and Jolo countryside in search of the Abu Sayyaf bandits, and one by one, its senior leaders were slain. Unfortunately, Martin Burnham was killed during a rescue attempt.

The Abu Sayyaf, through its urban operatives, also firebombed a passenger ship in 2004, just off Manila. Hundreds of Filipinos died in that attack.

Philippine officials believe Abu Sayyaf had links with the more radical Jemaah Islamiyah, an Indonesian Islamic movement that wants to create a Taliban-like Islamic super-state that would include Indonesia, Malaysia, Singapore and the Philippines. Abu Sayyaf is believed to be sheltering two top Indonesian terrorists, Dulmatin and Umar Patek, responsible for the bloody Bali bombings.

These days, Abu Sayyaf is being hunted down and wiped out by determined Filipino soldiers intent on ending this bloody and horrific chapter in Philippine history.
©2007 OhmyNews
Other articles by reporter Alex Argote

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