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MILF coddled Usman all along, says general

MILITARY officials admitted on Monday that the killing of Filipino bomb-maker Abdul Basit Usman on Saturday was a “passport for the passage of the Bangsamoro Basic Law in Congress,” but it also showed that the Usman was being coddled by the Moro Islamic Liberation Front.

End of the road. This undated photo released on May 4 by the Armed
Forces of the Philippines shows the body of Abdul Basit Usman, a
Filipino on the US list of most wanted terrorists, after he was killed
in Maguindanao while being escorted by fighters of the Moro Islamic
Liberation Front. AFP
“The truth is, Usman and his men were being coddled in MILF territory at the time of his death. That is a fact,” said a general staff officer, who asked not be named for fear of official sanctions.

The officer made the remark as military chief Gen. Pio Gregorio Catapang told reporters that Usman was killed by his own men because of the $1 million bounty that the United States government offered for his capture or death.

“Another truth is that Usman is Wahid Tundok’s ticket to freedom,” the general said, referring to the commander of the MILF 118th Base Command, which took responsibility for Usman’s killing and brought Usman’s body to the MILF’s Camp Dirapanan for burial.

The general said Tundoc is one of the MILF members who was allegedly involved in the Mamasapano incident and the MILF was very concerned that he was facing criminal charges so it was decided that he lead his men in an operation to kill Usman.

The general said it was agreed that if Tundoc could present Usman as a “gift,” the government may reconsider the charges that are being prepared against him and allow him re-join society upon the approval of the BBL.

Tundoc was listed as among the MILF fighters facing criminal charges before the Department of Justice (DOJ) for their involvement in the killing of 44 SAF commandos at the cornfield in Mamasapano town.

“It was a betrayal,” said Absalom Cerveza, spokesman of the Moro National Liberation Front, citing field reports from their commanders.

Cerveza said MNLF commanders have issued alerts to their units in view of the unfolding events in Mindanao, especially since they are expecting the Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters to retaliate against the government because of Usman’s killing.

“The MNLF had reacted to the death of Usman, especially on the actions made by the MILF against their former comrades in the underground organization,” Cereveza said, adding that Usman’s killing will likely spark hostilities between the MILF and the BIFF.

 

“This will ignited a complex problem. War could erupt,” Cerveza said, adding that the MILF may have decided to have Usman killed to erase the culpability of the MILF in the death of 44 police commandos in Mamasapano, Maguindanao last January 25.

“It’s a game play,” Cerveza said, expressing doubt that the killing of Usman would erase public doubts on the MILF’s sincerity in relation to the BBL.

“The issue of passing the law in moot and academic. The law will be passed, but as to whether the law will satisfy the MILF, whether the law is acceptable to the MILF, that is a big question,” Cerveza said.

“The MILF is only being used by the military,” Cerveza added. “The military is using the MILF as front against rebel groups, a tool to divide and rule.” Cerveza said.

A Filipino on the United States’ list of most wanted “terrorists” has been killed in a firefight in the southern Philippines, Muslim rebel leaders and the military said Monday.

Earlier, MILF vice chairman Ghazali Jaafar confirmed that Usman was killed in a remote mountainous area while being escorted by MILF members.

 “We can confirm that Usman is dead and his body was buried in accordance with Muslim tradition,” Jaafar told AFP, but he refused to say who killed him.

The MILF is seeking to finalise an accord, signed last year, with the government to end four decades of fighting in which about 120,000 people have died.

Security forces had been hunting Usman since he escaped from a January police raid that killed Malaysian Zulkifli bin Hir, an alleged bomb maker who was the subject of a $5-million US government bounty.

Usman, accused of repeated bomb attacks in the southern Philippines, was the subject of a $1-million US bounty.

The January raid, conducted in MILF territory, also led to the death of 44 police commandoes as rebels fought back, setting back efforts to finalise the peace deal.

The MILF has since then been under intense political pressure to show it is a reliable peace partner. 

Jaafar said Usman was killed as MILF rebels were escorting him to the group’s leaders to surrender, adding that he probably did not know he was being taken back to the MILF leaders. 

“There was a firefight along the way. Usman could have sensed that he was being double-crossed,” Jaafar said.

However he refused to give any more details as to who killed Usman, saying only that the circumstances of the firefight were under investigation.

Military chief General Gregorio Catapang said Usman had been killed, but that it remained unclear as to who killed him.

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