Part 4 of a series
TAUFEK Refke, the finance officer of Wakalah Hudaibiyah who was arrested by the Philippine National Police (PNP) in Maguindanao on October 2, 2003, confirmed the existence of the al-Qaida-linked Jemaah Islamiyah terror network in the Philippines. The arrest of Refke confirmed the PNP’s assumption that most of the JIs in Mindanao came from Surakarta, Indonesia. In his confession, Refke said that upon their arrival at the JI camp, he saw about 50 foreigners—Indonesians and Malaysians—undergoing military training at Hudaibiyah, which was established as a training cell for JI members in the separatist Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) territory in Mindanao sometime in 2000.
Islamists Ramzi Yousef and Khalid Sheik Mohammed were Indonesian operatives in the Philippines who used our country to carry out terrorist activities such as Oplan Bojinka. The Bojinka plot was a large-scale, three-phase attack planned in January 1995 to 1) assassinate Pope John Paul II; 2) bomb airplanes in flights from Asia to the United States with the goal of killing approximately 4,000 passengers and shut down air travel around the world; and 3) crash a plane into the headquarters of the Central Intelligence Agency in Fairfax County, Virginia—all of which were to be carried out within a 48-hour period. Yousef, Mohammed and a third companion named Abdul Hakim Murad, rented a unit at the Doña Josefa Apartments in Ermita, Manila. They were unable to execute any of the three attacks. But a bomb planted by Yousef on Philippine Airlines Flight 433 killed one person and injured 10 others.
The third Bojinka plotter, Murad, had a wealth of information for PNP interrogator Col. Rodolfo Mendoza. He said that the al-Qaida bomber Ramzi Yousef had planned the February 26, 1993 truck bomb attack on New York City’s World Trade Center at the Abu Sayyaf base in the Philippines, which he repeated during his trial in 1995.
Death of a terrorist
Another key JI operative, Fathur Rahman al-Ghozi, an Indonesian and an Afghan veteran, was a trained bomb maker and a JI trainer who conducted bomb-making courses in Malaysia and the Philippines. He was also reported to be a member of the MILF special operations group (SOG). He planned and financed the Rizal Day bombings, a series of bomb attacks carried out by Jemaah Islamiyah on December 30, 2000 that killed 22 people. He was arrested in the Philippines on January 15, 2002. He pleaded guilty to charges of possession of illegal explosives in April 2002, but escaped from a high-security facility inside Camp Crame in July 2003, with two other Abu Sayyaf suspects. A nationwide hunt for the fugitives was launched. It was reported that al-Ghozi was killed during a police shootout in Pigcawayan, North Cotabato on October 12, 2003.
An eyewitness named Abraham told me this regarding the end of al-Ghozi:
“I remember it was 3 p.m. in October 2003, when Sammy Gambal, the MILF chief of staff whose brother became mayor of Kabuntalan, instructed me to bring my car and drive al-Ghozi, who had a P20 million bounty on his head and transport him to the Liguasan Marsh. I answered, ‘But sir, my car is under repair.’ Sammy Gambal assigned the task to Abdulnaser Kitugi, my classmate at the MILF Elite Force. The day after, we heard that al-Ghozi was killed during a police shootout. I rushed to Buluan, Maguindanao, and talked to Muskin Ambil because I knew he was the companion of Abdulnaser Kitugi who was assigned to drive al-Ghozi. But he said he really didn’t know what happened because he just drove the advance car. He said that in Pigcawayan, two vans suddenly blocked the multicab that al-Ghozi was riding. Three days later, Sammy Gambal called us to report to his office. We were instructed to keep silent and say that what the news reported was what really happened. Which was very clear to us that it was just a scenario away from the truth. The one who killed al-Ghozi was his escort. That was what “KB” said he saw before he ran into the rice fields thinking that he would be the next target of al-Ghozi’s escort.”
News reports quoted police and military authorities as saying that al-Ghozi, “an Indonesian who was one of Asia’s most wanted terror suspects,” was killed when the van that he and an unidentified companion were riding tried to run through a checkpoint on the Cotabato-Davao highway in Pigcawayan. But local officials and residents of the town claimed that the JI bombmaker was killed without a gunfight, fueling speculation that al-Ghozi had long been captured and killed to boost the Arroyo administration’s anti-terrorism image. A source claimed that the government paid P20 million to an unidentified group that had custody of al-Ghozi.
Training to be a jihadist
Abraham, the eyewitness, gave further details of how he became to be a member of the MILF at age 16 in 1995 and how he came to train at the Indonesian-run Camp Hudaibiyah. He said financial problems which prevented him from finishing high school and war had brought him to the MILF’s Camp Abubakar.
“1 had nothing to do. I might as well go with my cousin to the MILF school and learn about religion and Islamization. The MILF academy would teach me,” he said.
“I saw guns. Commander Abdulraman Mamaluba welcomed me. He shook my hand. As long as I followed the rules I could go to school for three months to learn about guns, Islamization and the ideology of the MILF,” he said. .
Abraham underwent the basic military training course in Camp Vietnam located between Hudeibiyah and Abubakar. They were taught the Islamic discipline and prayers from the Koran and from the book of the Prophet Mohammed and the Hadith.
The doctrine of pardo ayn was obligatory. A person would commit a sin if the obligation was not performed. Pardo kipaya was by choice—it is praying for the dead which one may either join or not and not commit a sin.
“The jihad was unholy vengeance. Indoctrination induced anger. We were taught that the whole of Mindanao was Moroland; little by little the Muslims lost their land. Now only one-quarter of Mindanao is of the Moros. If a span of land was claimed by non-Moros the jihad would be pardo ayn. Hindi isang dangkal ng lupa ang ninakaw kundi isang dangkal ang itinira. (It was not that a span of land was stolen but a span of land was all that was left),” said Abraham.
Part of the physical training was being woken up suddenly in the wee hours to check alertness. There was also guns and weapons training like dismantling, cleaning and learning how to fire guns such as Cal.45, M16, and M14, Garand (the same guns the CAFGU used), M60 and 30 Cal. But it was all mostly theory for the guns had no bullets. The trainees had to buy their own bullets.
Abraham continued: “We ate what we planted in Camp Abubakar, corn, vegetables. Rice was supplied to the trainees, dalawang dangkal for the week. After three months of training I was assigned as the bodyguard of Chairman Hashim Salamat at Camp Abubakar for six months.
“The situation was hard. It was raining continuously. I was regretting having gone to the camp because I missed my parents. That was the time Abdulrahman Mamaluba decided to send me to Camp Hudaibiyah for military training.”
(To be continued)