Last of a 6-part series
I WAS unaware visiting Camp Abubakar as a scholar and cultural researcher in the late 1980s of the Camp Hudaibiyah that lay in its future. The trust nurtured between Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) commander Murad Ibrahim, Zac Candao, Lanang Ali, Ustadz Abdul Halil Yayah and Ustadz Paisigan and myself was rooted in a shared struggle to provide the basic necessities for the development of Muslim communities.
Murad drove me in his top-down jeep through Camp Abubakar, passing fields of corn, peanuts and durian trees surrounded by jungle where the mujaheddin did their combat exercises. A beautiful view lay before me. The hills of Buldon and Barira, a storehouse of legends Indiripatra and Sulaiman and Moro history brought me to soaring heights. Lush trees provided security for the trainees and people who trekked just a day to reach the MILF’s Camp Bushra in Butig, Lanao del Sur. Without the demarcation of territories north, south, east and west, the MILF extended their perimeters to vast lengths and widths, cordoning off large areas against law enforcers and the Philippine Army. I had gone as well to Pinjamen in Butig in search of Bantugan’s kingdom found in the Maranao epic, Darangen.
We stopped before a group of men lined up outside the two-story MILF school. We had interrupted a roll call. A line formation was organized in honor of their commander. As we approached, the MILF mujaheddin stood erect, carrying their rifles and wearing an assortment of clothing without any identifiable badges or uniforms as combatants. Some wore combat boots, others rubber slippers. Some had short hair, others long hair. Their shirts were of varied colors; some wore fatigue pants, and others jeans.
Funded by al-Qaeda
At the end of the Afghan war, Camp Hudaibiyah of the Jemaah Islamiyah’s Indonesian Islamic Liberation Front was established in Camp Abubakar in 1994 on orders of Emir Abdullah Sungkar in Indonesia. Mohammad Nasser bin Abbas alias Sulaiman, the head of Mantique 3 in southern Philippines and Indonesia, established the camps with the MILF.
Few were allowed access to Hudaibiyah, it being an Indonesian camp. It was built and organized with al-Qaeda funds. More than a thousand al-Qaeda-linked terrorists arrested in Southeast Asia confessed that they had trained in the Philippines.
In August 1998, an 18-month military training took place in Hudaibiyah, Camp Abubakar, called Kuleyah Harbiya Daurohaskarayah (KHD), on tactics, weapons training, map reading, explosives and religion. Tactics involved maneuver, ambush, raids, observation, patrolling, and firing and marksmanship.
Several intelligence documents contained lists of foreigners training in the MILF camps, including Camp Bushra. According to a source I interviewed in 2001, he himself met there 14 foreign men – from Indonesia, Egypt, Afghanistan, Pakistan, Kuwait, Saudi Arabia and Qatar.
After government troops seized Camp Abubakar in 2000, Camp Hudeibiyah withdrew to Mt. Caracao 1. But because of the lack of water there, the entire Hudaibiyah and mujaheddin fighters transferred to Caracao 2 close to the boundary of Lanao del Sur and Maguindanao at Camp Jabal Quba.
The “structural’ operatives reported through the chain of command to JI leaders in Indonesia. After the 2002 Bali bombing, fugitives from Indonesia began arriving at the camp. They were termed “non-structural” because they had no specific assignments and were more or less free agents. Arriving again were Indonesians Umar Patek and Abdul Dulmatin.
After the military intensified attacks in Basilan and Jolo in 2003, key Abu Sayyaf leaders, including Abdulrajak’s brother Khadaffy Janjalani and Isnilon Hapilon, traveled to Zamboanga, then to Pawas. They stayed until they were expelled by the MILF in September 2005 in the interest of peace talks with the government.
There was funding for these terrorists from Osama bin Laden through Mohammed Jamal Khalifa, a tall, handsome Afghan veteran who was Bin Laden’s brother-in- law. He arrived in the Philippines in the 1980s and formed foundations in the aid of his Muslim brothers. I met him in Cotabato City in the late 1980s.
Police intelligence officer Rodolfo Mendoza Jr., in an evaluation of terrorist financing, wrote that the International Islamic Relief Organization was used by Osama bin Laden and Khalifa to distribute funds for the purchase of arms and other logistical requirements of the MILF and Abu Sayyaf. Only 10 to 30 percent of the foreign funding went to the legitimate relief and livelihood projects.
The International Islamic Relief Organization was also a key funder of the Markazzo Shahab Al-Islamiyah (MSI), one of MILF’s most important front organizations that was engaged in dawah (the practice or policy of conveying the message of Islam to non-Muslims) and its recruitment activities. Based in Lanao del Sur, it was affiliated with the Saudi organization, the World Assembly of Muslim Youth (WAMY).
Khalifa provided funding for the MSI through several charities and foundations, including the Muslim World League, and the Zaid Bin Thabit Koranic Center. The MSI was affiliated with a number of non-government organizations, one of which operated a 30-hectare training center in Pooana Bayabao, Lanao del Sur, which served as a non-military training center of the MILF. The International Islamic Relief Organization donated P8 million for the training center which was constructed by the Sahaba Development and Construction Inc., a company associated with MILF personalities. Khalifa’s organizations also operated in Singapore and Kuala Lumpur.
The Khalifa network, especially the unit that imported, exported, traded and recruited workers, served as the coordinating point for business transactions, terrorist activities and the recruitment of Islamic fighters for al-Qaida. In his capacity as the director for the International Islamic Relief Organization– Philippines, Khalifa served as its central authority with a dual character in the overall context of terrorist financing management and Islamic missionary-oriented approach which focused on the welfare of poor Islamic communities.
Khalifa helped finance the Abu Sayyaf Group whose founder, Abdurajak Abubakar Janjalani was recruited by Khalifa and sent to Syria and Libya for training in the late 1980s. The ASG was reportedly able to expand its membership with the support of the Khalifa network.
It is disgusting that our elected government officials do not know of the entry of these terrorists since 1980 to overthrow our government. It is preposterous that our lawmakers are not aware of national security and external security. They must study them and learn of the threats to our country.
An important urgent question to be answered: If Islam is a religion of peace, why does terrorism threaten our peace? According to Islam, the first and the foremost basic right of human beings is the right to live. Yet, acts of terrorism are principally perpetrated by believers of Islam from strongholds within “Muslim Mindanao.” In fact, these terrorists are scholars, clerics, preachers of Islam who are helping men who engage in terrorism in their religious struggle, their jihad towards the creation of an Islamic State. These holy warriors are here and now in the Philippines to establish an Islamic caliphate.