Advertisement

MILF still hiding Usman

Rival MNLF says terror suspect in rebel area

FILIPINO bomb expert Abdul Basit Usman is still hiding inside the Moro Islamic Liberation Front’s territory in Maguindanao even as security forces on Tuesday launched a joint operation to capture him after he eluded the police operation on Jan. 25 that resulted in the death of 44 police commandos.

“The MILF can’t deny that Usman is within their territory,” said Absalom Cerveza, spokesman of the Moro National Liberation Front.

He said Mindanao residents had expressed alarm over the operation to capture Usman for whom the US government has offered a bounty of $1 million.

“Where will they look for Usman? There are only two other armed groups [since] Usman will not hide with the New People’s Army,” Cerveza said. “So it’s either with the Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters or the MILF.”

Cerveza made his statement even as Rasid Ladiasan, head of the MILF’s Coordinating committee on the Cessation of Hostilities, on Tuesday said the MILF was not a terrorist group and was not associated with the BIFF.

Cayetano
He made the statement after Senate Majority Leader Peter Cayetano told the Senate inquiry on the Mamasapano debacle that the MILF was coddling terrorists, including Malaysian bomb expert Zulkifli bin Hir alias Marwan and Usman.

“We are not terrorists, We have been fighting terrorism in all its forms through the peace process,” Ladiasan said.

The Commission on Human Rights, meanwhile, wanted to clear some legal issues with the Foreign Affairs and Justice Departments to know what court issued arrest warrants on Marwan and Usman with a bounty of $5 million and $1 million, respectively.

The agency said the origin of the warrants could be material evidence of human rights violations in its 90-day probe of the Mamasapano clash.

Ceveza said Usman, a member of the Abu Sayyaf group, was trained by the Jemaah Islamiyah and that had endeared him to the BIFF and radical elements in the MILF. But he had also been linked to some groups in the MNLF.

“If the BIFF will try to bring Usman to the MNLF, that is their choice, but as far as we are concerned, we are not going to accept, we don’t want to coddle Usman,” Cerveza said.

While the pursuit operation is under way, Cerveza is hopeful that the military will not violate their rights.

“The military should also respect our rights in our camps,” Cerveza said.

He said additional government forces had been sent to Central Mindanao for still unknown reasons.

“They have sent military components here in Minadanao. We are not sure what the plans are, but we have instructed our people to avoid confrontation with the military,” Cerveza said.

“However, if we cannot avoid them, then they [MNLF commanders] will be told to defend themselves,” Cerveza said.

The military and the police have launched a joint operation to capture Usman, who eluded arrest by Special Action Force commandos in Mamasapano town in Maguindanao on Jan. 25.

Lt. Col. Harold Cabunoc, chief of the Armed Forces of the Philippines’ public affairs office, said on Monday the Army’s 6th Infantry Division and the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao-Police Regional Office in Maguindanao had started tracking down Usman.

“We have ongoing joint operations in Maguindanao to capture Usman. We have information that he is still in the area,” Cabunoc told reporters.

Usman is the Filipino deputy of Malaysian terrorist Marwan who was killed by SAF commandos in an assault on their hideout in Mamasapano early on Jan. 25.

Usman’s escape was aided by an attack by guerrillas from the Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters and the Moro Islamic Liberation Front.              Forty-four SAF troopers, 18 MILF guerrillas and five civilians were killed in the 12-hour gun battle in Mamasapano.

AFP Chief of Staff Gregorio Pio Catapang said despite the lack of coordination between the AFP and the Philippine National Police in the operation against Marwan and Usman, relations between the two services remained professional.

Catapang expressed hope that the word war between the sacked SAF commander, Police Director Getulio Napeñas, and the AFP would not affect the good relations and close cooperation between the two institutions.

Meanwhile, Usman has reportedly formed a new group from former officers and members of the Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters, a security and intelligence expert said.

Usman reportedly calls his new group the Bangsamoro Justice Movement, retired police general Rodolfo “Boogie” Mendoza, who is now president of the Philippine Institute for Peace, Violence and Terrorism Research, said.

Mendoza, who once headed the Intelligence Group of the Philippine National Police, is credited with cracking “Oplan Bojinka,” an al-Qaeda operation acknowledged to be the precursor of the 9/11 attacks on the US. With PNA and Rio N. Araja

COMMENT DISCLAIMER: Reader comments posted on this Web site are not in any way endorsed by Manila Standard. Comments are views by manilastandard.net readers who exercise their right to free expression and they do not necessarily represent or reflect the position or viewpoint of manilastandard.net. While reserving this publication’s right to delete comments that are deemed offensive, indecent or inconsistent with Manila Standard editorial standards, Manila Standard may not be held liable for any false information posted by readers in this comments section.
AdvertisementKPPI
Advertisement