Thursday, January 21, 2010

Top Filipino terrorist killed in US drone attack in Pakistan

COTABATO CITY, Philippines (Mindanao Examiner / January 21, 2010) – A senior commander of the Philippines’ largest Muslim rebel group, the Moro Islamic Liberation Front, who is wanted both by Manila and Washington for terrorism, was believed killed in a US drone strike in Pakistan, reports said on Thursday.

Reports said Abdul Basit Usman, who had links with the al-Qaeda and Jemaah Islamiya, was allegedly killed last week close to the Afghan border. There was no immediate confirmation from Filipino authorities about the reports of Usman's death.

The MILF, which is fighting for an independent Islamic state in Mindanao, repeatedly denied that Usman is a member of the rebel group and even ordered guerilla forces to hunt down the terrorist and bring him to justice.

"We have no reports at this point that Abdul Basit Usman is killed in Pakistan. We are trying to verify that reports, but if it is true, then we are happy about it because this cleared all suspicions by the Philippine military that Abdul Basit Usman is a MILF commander."

"As far as we know, Usman had links with the Jemaah Islamiya and the Al-Qaeda and could be fighting alongside with the Taliban which has links with Al-Qaeda. It is not impossible for Usman to fight alongside with the Taliban because of his extensive links with the Al-Qaeda," Eid Kabalu, a senior MILF leader, told the independent regional newspaper, the Mindanao Examiner.

Just last year, the US Department of State offered up to $1 million for information leading to the location, arrest or conviction of Usman, a known bomb expert tagged by Filipino authorities as behind the spate of deadly attacks in Mindanao region, south of the Philippines.

The Philippine military also linked Usman to the Abu Sayyaf group in Mindanao and had been captured in 2002 in Sultan Kudarat province, but he escaped from jail. Usman was tagged as behind deadly in the Mindanao cities of General Santos, Kidapawan and Cotabato that killed and wounded dozens of innocent civilians.

Western Mindanao military chief Lieutenant General Benjamin Dolorfino said they have to verify the reports to confirm whether Usman was killed in the US attack along with 11 other militants.

"If the reports are true then it is good news for us because the killing of (Abdul) Basit Usman means one less terrorist on the street. We still have to verify the reports. Usman was involved in many deadly bombings in Mindanao - in General Santos City, in Kidapawan City, in Koronadal in South Cotabato and parts of Mindanao," Dolorfino said in a separate interview.
(Mindanao Examiner)

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