Did The CIA Create the Abu Sayyaf?
Abu Sayyaf — CIA’s baby?
By Nash Maulana
COTABATO CITY – Is the U.S. Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) behind the "organization and supervision of the Abu Sayyaf, which military hopes to "crush" since it started operations two weeks ago in Sulu?
For Senator Aquilino Pimentel, there is no doubt. He made the statement even as Malaca�ang raised an intriguing suspicion that American "captive" Jeffrey Craig Schilling might be in cahoots with the bandit group, that he is "no ordinary tourist," and that he has been in the country even prior to the kidnapping of Western and Asian nationals on Malaysian territory of Sipadan Island last April 23.
Calling the Abu Sayyaf a "CIA Monster, " Pimentel said, "The CIA has sired a monster that has caused a lot problem for the country and is giving the country a horrible reputation in the international community."
The Mindanao legislator said he was also opposed to a reported US offer to help the government fight local terrorism. "The United States is morally bound to help rid the country of these hooligans," he said.
Pimentel however warned that allowing foreigners to fight "our war against rebels and criminals" could get the country and the rescuing nation "embroiled in a messy war such as the one in Columbia."
Arlyn de la Cruz, the journalist whom the Abu Sayyaf of Abu Salayuddin’s group allowed to meet Schilling in its camp, is one of the persons that Pimentel said could help shed light into alleged links of the Abu Sayyaf with former government officials.
Pimentel said: "It is a well-documented fact that the CIA had recruited, trained and funded mujahideens from among the Moros of Southern Mindanao to fight the Russians in Afghanistan between 1979 and 1989. It is also a fact that some of the mujahideens have returned to the country after the Afghan War, have constituted the core or have organized the Abu Sayyaf, which is now causing a lot of trouble for the country."
"The US government is also looking at this angle (that Schilling was into arms dealing with Abu Sayyaf). They want more information on the wife" of Schilling, Press Sec. Ricardo Puno said, referring to Ivy Osani, who was arrested three years ago by authorities on suspicion of being a member of the Abu Sayyaf intelligence group.
"What is clear is that (Schilling has) been (in Zamboanga City) six months. This guy is no ordinary tourist," Puno said.
Schilling’s takers said the American was detained after a heated debate on religion turned into Abu Sayyaf accusing the American that he was a spy for the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA).
"These are all leads we are looking at," Puno said of the claims made by the kidnappers.
"If we are unable to ascertain the truth about the responsibility of the CIA and some of our own military officers in the creation, training and supervision of Abu Sayyaf activities from direct evidence of the persons in the know, materials abound that weave an incontrovertible tale of their involvement through circumstantial evidence," Pimentel said.
He also said that in his book "Unholy War," American author John K. Cooley who has made "the most direct statement regarding the training and funding of the Abu Sayyaf by the CIA."
"Cooley supports his allegations not only with documents obtained from CIA and Russian sources but with interviews that he had conducted with persons in the know of the secret operations of the CIA in connection with the Afghan war," Pimentel said.
Asked whether the Senate has cleared former government officials of alleged involvement in some of Abu Sayyaf’s previous operations, Pimentel said: "Don’t be too sure about that. There are other witnesses who have not surfaced for fear of their lives."
In a privilege speech titled "Treasonous Handling of the Abu Sayyaf" on July 31, Pimentel named former Interior Secretary Rafael Alunan and then Southern Command chief, Maj. Guillermo Ruiz as having known some of Abu Sayyaf’s previous operations, including illegal logging and alleged conspiracy to push the passage of an anti-terrorism bills by Congress. Ruiz has been named one of the government negotiators for the release of the Sipadan hostages, under Presidential Adviser on Flagship Project Robert Aventajado.
Pimentel recommended that former Defense Secretary Renato de Villa and even former President Fidel Ramos be summoned by the Senate Defense committee to help shed light on Abu Sayyaf.
The Senate Defense Committee chaired, by Senator Rodolfo Biazon, had earlier cleared Alunan and Ruiz of Pimentel’s accusation. Pimentel said a body guard of Angeles had told him "weeks ago the names of other officers of the armed forces who handled the Abu Sayyaf’ in not so distant past, but he is deathly afraid of coming out into the open."
He said an ABS-CBN video footage could also validate Angeles’ disclosures on Alunan’s prodding on him to pin down six Arab nationals on charges of terrorism.
"Massacres swinging to and from Muslim and non-Muslim communities is most worrisome," Pimentel further warned, referring to the recent spate of massacres in parts of Central Mindanao. He said that extremists would not stop unless something more powerful steps in between the forces of violence and forcibly puts an end to it.
Recalling the 1994 massacre in Ipil, Zamboanga del Sur, Pimentel said: "Edwin Angeles told me after the elections of 1995, that it was the Abu Sayyaf that was responsible for the raid and the razing down of the town of Ipil in early 1995. In that raid, Angeles told me that the Abu Sayyaf raiders were reportedly provided with military vehicles, mortars and assorted firearms. All this time, Angeles was ‘handled’ by police officer, now chief superintendent, Rodolfo Mendoza."
Based on his ABS-CBN declaration in 1995, during which he sought Pimentel’s legal assistance, Angeles had said that the arrest of Arab nationals in Malate, Manila in 1995 was a ploy by Alunan and then PNP Chief Recaredo Sarmiento to justify the passage of the anti-terrorism bill. The Arab nationals were sent to New York for trial on charges of terrorism and of supposed plot to assassinate Pope John II in January 1995.
Camp Crame had sent one SPO4 Orlando Ramilo to testify against the Arab nationals. But subsequent reports had it that Ramilo, "touched by his conscience," pointed in a US court testimony that his "superiors" actually gave him "a list of materials for making bombs" to push terrorism and assassination plot charges against the respondent Arab nationals.
With "illegal logging as the common thread among the Marines, the Abu Sayyaf and Edwin Angeles," Ruiz’s name was dragged into the controversy by unnamed military sources in the book – "Under the Crescent Moon: Rebellion in Mindanao" – one of Pimentel’s sources in exposing alleged government connections of the Abu Sayyaf.
But according to Biazon, the authors of the book, journalists Marites Danguilan-Vitug and Glenda Gloria, admitted in their testimony in his committee that some of the stories printed in the book were "based on rumors."