Part 2 of a series
IN 1999, Osama bin Laden left Saudi Arabia and settled in Sudan, whose ruler Hassan Al-Turabi shared Bin Laden’s dream of establishing a purist Islamic state. Pressure from the Saudis and the Americans made Sudanese authorities force Bin Laden out of Sudan. Bin Laden relocated to the Afghan city of Jalalabad and declared war against the United States. In 1998, he reunited with Annan el Zwahiri and announced a new coalition “The International Islamic Front for Jihad against Crusaders and Jews.”
Osama bin Laden authored two fatawa (declaration of war) in the late 1990s. The first was published in August 1996 and the second in February 1998. At the time, Bin Laden was not a wanted man in any country except his native Saudi Arabia, and was not yet known as the leader of the international terrorist organization al-Qaida. Therefore, these fatawa received relatively little attention until after the August 1998 bombings of the US embassies in two East African cities, for which bin Laden was indicted. The indictment mentioned the first fatawa, and claims that Khalid al-Fawwaz of Bin Laden’s Advice and Reformation Committee in London, participated in its communication to the press.
Al-Qaida claimed authorship of the bombings of the US embassies in Nairobi, Kenya, and Dar es Salaam, Tanzania, and all of a sudden Bin Laden was propelled to international status. Two hundred twenty-four Americans were killed and 4,000 were wounded. US President Bill Clinton sent 900 FBI operatives to East Africa and a series of manhunts for Bin Laden took place. Twenty terrorists were arrested.
After the bombings of the United States embassies in East Africa in 1998, Osama bin Laden and Abu Zubaida called key allies and asked them to set up alternative training camps, Hasan Hattab in Algeria and Hashim Salamat in the Philippines. Soon after, the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) set up camps in Maguindanao.
Al-Faruq, a Kuwaiti of Iraqui descent and an Afghan veteran and senior operative of al-Qaida, obtained the help of Indonesian allies. Camp Hodeibia, the first camp for foreigners within the MILF enclave was initially created for the Indonesian Islamic Liberation Front only. The group was later known as Jemaah Islamiyah. He told his Indonesian interrogators he “helped establish Camp Hodeibia in Moroland in 1994 by the order of Abdullah Sungkar.” It was Abdullah Sungkar who met with Osama bin Laden in Afghanistan and offered al-Qaida the loyalty of his Jemaah Islamiyah network.
Ustadz Hashim Salamat, the religious and determined librarian of Maguindanao, founded the MILF. In 1960, he sent Filipino Muslim students to Lahore, Pakistan, and some proceeded to Middle Eastern schools. They banded together, unified by common feelings concerning the “usurpation of their legitimate and inalienable rights to freedom and self-determination by a dominantly Catholic nation”.
In the 1980s, Salamat sent around 600 fighters and Islam converts to join the annual pilgrimage to Mecca, or as overseas contract workers; their ultimate destination was Lahore, Pakistan, where they met and joined madrassas that taught them the concepts of jihad. About 360 were transferred to a military camp in Afghanistan.
In 1982, Hashim Salamat was officially put in charge of selecting the Muslims to join Bin Laden’s recruitment organization “MAK,” meaning Maktab al-Khidamat aka Afghan Services, to raise funds and recruit foreign mujaheddin for Afghanistan. The Institute for Policy Analysis of Conflict (IPAC) shows that Hashim Salamat chose men who had field commander status in1986.
In 1999, Salamat looked for the possibility of organizing training camps for MILF volunteers in Afghanistan in agreement with al-Qaida.
An Afghan war veteran and a mujaheddin, Abdurajak Janjalani, returned from Afghanistan and founded the Abu Sayaf Group (ASG) in 1990. Janjalani had obtained a scholarship from the Saudi Arabian government in 1981 through the help of Mohamad Jamal Khadifa, Bin Laden’s brother-in-law. Janjalani was sent to Ummu I-Qura in Mecca where he studied Islamic jurisprudence for three years.
As an Afghan commander, Abdurajak Janjalani had befriended Abdur Rab Rasul Sayaaf, a religious scholar after whom the Abu Sayyaf was named. It was during this period when Janjalani was influenced by Middle East-Sunni jihadist ideology based on the commitment to the renewal of an ummah (one Islamic family worldwide), by returning to Islam’s fundamentalist roots, deeply ingrained in advocacy of the jihad in defense of the faith and the establishment of Allah’s sovereignty, through the revival of the Caliphate going back to the fourth successor of the Prophet Muhammad, Ali al-Rashidun.
When Janjalani returned home to Basilan in 1990 he renewed his friendship with Wahab Akbar, another Afghan-trained mujaheddin who eventually became governor of Basilan. The alleged misuse of ASG funds by Akbar made them part ways.
Abdurajak Janjalani strengthened the Abu Sayyaf’s relationship with foreign jihadis, particularly members of the Jemaah Islamiyah from Indonesia and its affiliate in Malaysia, Kumpulan Mujahidin Malaysia (KMM). The Malaysian terrorist Marwan was a KMM member. Another Malaysian, Amin Baco, who was also being hunted with Basit Usman and Marwan by the SAF 44 in that tragic operation in Mamasapano in 2015, worked with Philippine IS and ASG under Hapilon. The Abu Sayyaf Group teamed up with militant Muslim converts, the Rajah Solaiman Movement, operating out of Luzon. That alliance produced the deadly Superferry bombing of February 2004 that took 116 lives.
(To be continued)