Moro Islamic Liberation Front fighters, armed with machine gun and B40 anti-tank rockets, guard a village in the southern Philippines. (Mindanao Examiner Photo)
MANILA (Mindanao Examiner / 30 Jan) – The United States on Tuesday offered up to $50,000 bounty for the capture of a Filipino terrorist implicated in the spate of bombings in the southern Philippines.
The bounty on the head of Abdul Basit Usman is part of the U.S. Government Rewards Program. Usman was linked to deadly bomb attacks in Mindanao in recent months.
Usman has been linked to the Jemaah Islamiyah and believed responsible for bombings in Mindanao in October 2006 that killed eight civilians and left 30 others wounded.
He was also implicated in a series of bomb attacks in January in the Mindanao cities of General Santos, Kidapawan and Cotabato that killed seven people and wounded 37 more.
Philippine authorities previously linked Usman to the Moro Islamic Liberation Front, the country’s largest Muslim separatist rebel group currently negotiating peace with Manila.
But the MILF has repeatedly denied the allegation and ordered rebel forces to hunt down Usman and bring him to justice.
A rebel spokesman Eid Kabalu said rebels were ordered to track down Usman and capture him dead or alive.
“Abdul Basit Usman is not a member of the MILF. Rebel forces were ordered to help Philippine authorities to hunt down and capture Abdul Basit Usman,” Kabalu said.
Kabalu said the bounty offered by Washington only proves that Usman is a dangerous man.
“This really proves that Usman is a very dangerous man. The bounty offered by the United States will add more credibility in its anti-terrorism campaign in the Philippines and Southeast Asia,” he said.
He said the MILF would continue to help Philippine authorities track down terrorists even without financial reward. “Money is not all important to us, but to bring peace and stability to Mindanao,” he said.
Police charged 10 MILF members, including Usman and a rebel leader Wahid Tundok for the January 5 and January 10 bombings in Cotabato City that killed one Muslim man.
“Usman and Tundok are both included in the charge sheet, along with eight other suspected bombers,” Cotabato City police spokesman Insp. Waves Kasuyo said.
The U.S. Embassy in Manila said the identity of any individuals providing information about Usman will remain strictly confidential.
“It is time to bring this despicable terrorist to justice. Anyone with information on Abdul Basit Usman, or any other terrorist, is encouraged to contact the Anti- Terrorist Task Force by calling 117, (02) 528-9832, (02) 928-5778, or contact the U.S. Embassy in Manila at (02) 526-9832/9833/9834 or send a text message to 0918-948-6412,” it said.
The MILF also denied that Tundok was involved in the bombings in the southern Philippines. “Our doors are open for any investigation. We have no links with any terrorist groups and are sincere with the peace talks,” Kabalu said.
The MILF is fighting for an independent Islamic state in Mindanao. (Mindanao Examiner)