Monday, April 26, 2010

Marines didn't know they hit the jackpot

Philippine Daily Inquirer, Tuesday, 23 February 2010

By: Julie S Alipala

ZAMBOANGA CITY-SOLDIERS wounded in a clash
with Abu Sayyaf bandits they had been chasing
for a day and a night did not know they had landed a
big fish.

Only when the hour long gun battle ended on
Sunday morning and the bodies of the six men
they had killed were identified did they learn
that one of them was A1bader Parad-a "ruthless
leader" of a bandit group linked to a worldwide
terror network.

Cpl. Marcelino Landicho of the Marine Battalion
Landing Team 4 said he and his fellow Marines
were briefed about raiding a suspected Abu
Sayyaf lair but "we didn't know they were
high-value targets."

One Marine was killed in the fighting.
Landicho and two others were wounded.

Parad, a young, brash bandit who gained
notoriety after posing for cameras with three
international Red Cross hostages last year,
had built up a fortune of $400,000 from his
kidnapping operation.

He was the second top Abu Sayyaf leader
killed by soldiers in an encounter since
the death of "Emir" Khadaffy Janjalani in a
clash in September 2006. Four months later,
troops killed his deputy, Abu Sulaiman,
in another gun battle.

Out of the 24 original Abu Sayyaf leaders,
about half a dozen remain at large. The rest
are dead or in jail. The group's oldest,
ailing commander, one armed Radulan Sahiron,
has not been seen since a 2008 clash.

Only two other influential leaders remain-
Umbra Jumdail,an ideologue also known
as Dr. Abu Pula and Isnilon Hapilon, who
carries a US reward of $5 million for his
capture. However, Hapilon might have suffered
a stroke, the military said.

"There are no young leaders emerging,"
said Lt. Gen. Ben Dolorfino, head of the
military's Western Mindanao Command.
Dolorfino said Parad carried a US bounty
of $1 million on his head (not $5 million
as the INQUIRER previously reported).The
Philippines also offered a P7 million
reward for him.

Hiking day and night

On the trail of the bandits,Corporal Landicho
and his fellow Marines hiked for a day and
night while Carreon to reach Karawan village
in Maimbung, Sulu, only to learn the bandits
had left.

"They had transferred to another location not
far from where we were," Landicho said.

Then, the bandits, armed with high-powered guns,
opened fire. MSgt. Eliseo Salo was killed.

"We fought back," Landicho said."They fired at
us before running away. We also fired at them
... until they withdrew."

The fighting left Landicho, Pfc. Joselito Carreon
and Cpl. Antonony Carmona wounded.

Landicho sustained shrapnel wounds on a leg.
Carmona had blast injuries on his body,
while Carreon took a bullet in the abdomen.

Morale booster

At his hospital bed, carmona said he did not
realize that Parad was among those killed.

"This is a big boost to our morale. Despite our
wounds, if we get this kind of news, it makes
us proud," Carmona said.

The wounded soldiers were given medals for
bravery in battle.

Parad and his group were behind the abduction
of International Committee of the Red Cross
members Mary Jean Lacaba, Eugenio Vagni and
Andreas Notter last year. He was also blamed
for kidnapping ABS-CBN reporter Ces Drilon and
her crew in 2008.

Sulu Gov. Abdusakur Tan said he was "101
percent positive" it was Parad whom the
troops killed.

"Parad's relatives positively identified
him and they confirmed his death," the governor

He said two younger brothers of Dr.Abu were
also killed in the clash.

Fatmawatti Salapuddin of the Sulu-based
Bangsamoro Women's Association, also confirmed
to the Inquirer that it was Parad who was
killed. She and Parad were cousins.

Started as errand boy

"This is a big blow to the Abu Sayyaf,"
Dolorfino said. "He was the most visible
among the leaders.The fear of the people for the
Abu Sayyaf is represented by the face
of Albader, which always comes out in newspapers."

Dolorfino described Parad as a "ruthless leader."

While the Abu Sayyaf has shown the ability to
recover after key leaders are killed or captured,
Dolorfino said there were no signs of
significant new leaders coming up.

Parad, who appeared to be in his 20s, began
as an errand boy in the bandits' jungle camps.
In 2000, he took part in a mass kidnapping
at the Sipadan resort in nearby Malaysia
that netted 10 Europeans and 11 other people,
according to a military dossier.

Parad came from a poor family where most
relatives had links to the Abu Sayyaf. He had
reportedly amassed more than $400,000 from
a string of earlier abductions, some of which
was invested by relatives in passenger transport
and coconut farmlands.

The Abu Sayyaf is blamed for the country's
worst bomb attacks,kidnapping sprees and
for beheading some of its hostages. It is also
blamed for the bombing of a passenger ferry
in Manila Bay that killed over 100 people in 2004.

The Abu Sayyaf which means "Father of the
Swordsman" in Arabic, was founded in
1991 in Basilan province with suspected
funds from Asian and Midlle Eastern radical groups,
including al-Qaida.

Dolorfino said Sunday's killings gave hope
that the Abu Sayyaf could finally be crushed.

"Without the leaders, the members will be
directionless and, if no new leader emerges,
they may crumble," said Dolorfino.

He said the Abu Sayyaf was now believed to
have only 330 fighters on Jola, with another
61 on Basilan. This is down from a peak of
about 1,200 men in 2002. (With reports from AP
and AFP)