Saturday, January 20, 2007

A Big Week in Jolo By Zachary Abuza

The US-Assisted Armed Forces of the Philippines had a morale boosting week. Today, the Philippine Government announced that US investigators had positively matched Khadaffy Janjalani’s DNA. The AFP had been certain that Janjalani, the leader of the Abu Sayyaf, had been wounded in a firefight on 4 September 2006.

Two ASG captives led them to an unmarked grave and investigators took a sample of DNA. In the night of 16 January, Philippine Special Forces killed Jainal Antel Sali, jr. @Abu Solaiman, the top military planner.

Sali was implicated in the kidnapping of US citizen Jeffrey Craig Schilling in 2000 on Jolo island; kidnapping 20 hostages including three Americans from the Dos Palmas resort in Palawan in 2001, one of whom, Guillermo Sobero he decapitated.

Of particular gratification to the US military advisors, Sali was responsible for a string of bombings in Zamboanga City in October 2002, one of which killed a US Special Forces personnel, one of the few casualties the Americans have sustained.

Both men carried $5 million bounties.

The training of AFP personnel is continuing. Though it has been a slow 4 years, they are really beginning to show progress. Right now the ASG is led by Radullan Sahiron @ Commander Putol, who has roughly 100-120 men under his control.

The other top leader is Isnilon Totoni Hapilon @ Salahuddin @ Abu Musab, who may be trying to draw recruits and regain a foothold in neighboring Basilan Island, which had been largely pacified since 2003.

Today the Philippine Marines announced they were sending a Brigade – roughly 1,500 men to Basilan. Hapilon has around 50-60 men under him. Other leaders include:• Osman @ Usman @ Rizal• Umbra Abu Jumdail @ Dr. Abu Pula• Albader Parad• Wahab Opao @ Abu Fatima• Ustadz Hatta Haipe• Julabi • Suhod Tanadjalan @ Commander Suhod

There are also approximately 5-6 members of JI with them.

But clearly the ASG is on the run, and less able to take the offensive and plan more sophisticated bombing attacks. The terrain is rugged and they are lightly armed, but the tide has decidedly turned against them.

Yet there have been a few setbacks such as the emergence of urban terrorist groups in Jolo City and Isabella, the capital of Basilan. While not all are tied to ASG, some are. AFP officials believe that the success of their operations have ironically driven ASG from the jungles to the cities. There have been a few bombings, but mainly motorcycle pillon shootings, such as the 17 January shooting of a police in Isabella.

January 20, 2007 07:16 AM Print

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