By Zachary Abuza
Yesterday the Philippine military announced that the body of Abu Sayyaf chieftain, Khadaffy Janjalani, had been found buried in the jungles outside of Kabuntakas village in Patikul town, on Jolo Island, an ASG stronghold off south-western Mindanao.
The exhumed body is now undergoing DNA testing. There have been a number of occasions that the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) has asserted that it had killed a member of the ASG or Jemaah Islamiyah, only to later retract it. If this assertion is true, then it is a very important break in the campaign against the Abu Sayyaf Group (ASG). Janjalani is the younger brother of the group’s founder Abdurajak Abubakar Janjalani, an associate of Osama bin Laden’s, who was killed in 1998.
He had worked assiduously since 2002 to bring the group back into the jihadi fold. Since early 2004, the group has shunned its high profile and lucrative kidnappings of foreigners and adopted a campaign of bombings. The most infamous case was the February 2004 bombing of the SuperFerry that killed over 100 people.
It launched the Valentine’s Day bombings across three cities in February 2005 and a host of smaller bombings in Mindanao in 2005-06. Starting in 2002, JI reached out to the ASG and began training with them in MILF camps in Mindanao. In November 2005 the MILF forced Janjalani and the two most radioactive of the JI members out of their territory and they retreated to Jolo.
A show of force of ASG in Indanan town in central Jolo in July 2006 led to the current offensive.The 31 year-old Janjalani has been on the US Government’s most wanted terrorist list since 2001 and has a $5 million bounty on his head for his role in the 2000 and 2001 kidnappings that led to the death of several American nationals.
The (AFP) launched Operation Ultimatum in early August 2006 to finish off some 120-200 militants under Janjalani’s control. In addition, they are thought to be accompanied by six members of Jemaah Islamiyah including the two Bali bombers, Dulmatin and Umar Patek. To date there are well over 7,500 AFP in Jolo.
They are assisted by a small number of US Special Forces who have been training and providing their AFP counterparts with critically needed intelligence. The AFP claims to have lost nearly 20 soldiers and marines, and another 90 wounded in the campaign.
The AFP estimated that some 50 rebels had been killed though only 13 bodies had been found. At one point the AFP claimed that 80 rebels had been killed.
The terrain is very mountainous and covered in a dense jungle canopy. Since August, there have been some successes. In Early September the AFP claimed that Janjalani and Umar Patek had been wounded in the fighting, though offered no proof.
The AFP discovered a bomb factory and seized almost 6,000 blasting caps, ten sacks of ammonium nitrate and other bomb-making materials. They also captured Dulmatin's wife Istiada Oemar Sovie, and two of his children, which led to retaliatory bombings in October 2006.
There were other seizures of explosives, and at least four ASG members who were involved in the 2000 and 2001 hostage taking events in the Philippines and Malaysia were arrested. Amongst the most important arrests was of Uktud Bayro in late October. Bayro, who was based on Tawi Tawi, was a key logistician in getting Indonesians and Malaysian members of JI in and out of Mindanao and Jolo.
Even with Janjalani eliminated, there are still a number of ASG leaders at large.
• Jainal Antel Sali Jr. @ Abu Soliaman
• Isnilon Hapilon @ Salahuddin
• Radullan Sahiron @ Commander Putol
• Osman aka Usman @ Rizal
• Abu Jumdail @ Dr. Abu
• Albader Parad
• Wahab Opao @ Abu Fatima
• Jundam Jamalul @ Black Killer
• Borhan Mundus
• Ustadz Hatta Haipe
• Jeqi @ Zaqqi
• Suhod Tanadjalan @ Commander SuhodJainal Antel Sali (Abu Soliaman), Isnilon Hapilon, and Radullan Sahiron (Commander Putol) are thought to be the three most important leaders. One Philippine press outlet has already reported that Radullan Sahiron had been elected to take over the ASG.
Previously, there were unconfirmed reports that Isnilon Hapilon had returned to the nearby island of Basilan. Little is known about the inner dynamics of the ASG.
The ASG is not a cohesive organization with a clear command and control. The various commanders have significant autonomy, though they have displayed the capacity to coordinate activities and operations. While the death of Janjalani would be an important morale booster to the Philippine armed forces, it alone will not lead to the end of the ASG, which will continue to be a low-level threat to Philippine security.
TrackBack URL for this entry:http://counterterrorismblog.org/mt/pings.cgi/3488