Government using smart bombs for first time vs Abu Sayyaf


Concealed by the night sky, the two aging Philippine Air Force planes unleashed a surprise high-tech weapon: US satellite-guided bombs that whizzed down with deadly precision toward a long-elusive terrorist and two other top radicals dozing with their men in Jolo Island’s jungle.

The use of smart bombs, confirmed to The Associated Press (AP) by four senior Philippine security officials, marks a new chapter in the long-running battle against an al-Qaeda-linked movement in Mindanao, viewed by the United States as a key front in the global effort to keep terrorists at bay.

Successive blasts shattered a hillside  encampment of the Abu Sayyaf, which remains one of Southeast Asia’s most violent groups despite a decade of battle losses.

The Vietnam War-era turboprops roared away after delivering a bull’s-eye hit near mountainous Parang town around 3 a.m. on February 2.

Thermal imaging from a US drone, described by two of the senior officials, depicted the aftermath: Several slain gunmen lay amid a clutter of destroyed trees, huts and tents, while survivors pulled away the dead and wounded in the pitch darkness.

Although it remains unclear whether all three of the most-wanted terrorists were killed, the introduction of smart bombs reflects shifting battlefields and strategies.

Less manpower-intensive

The United States has been assisting the Philippine military since shortly after the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks, providing advice, training, and intelligence, including drone surveillance, but the smart bombs are the first major high-tech hardware supplied to the Philippines.

The bombs offer a less manpower-intensive way to combat the Abu Sayyaf at a time when both the Philippines and the US militaries want to focus resources on tensions with China in the West Philippine Sea (South China Sea).

They also dovetail with a change in recent years from massive offensives to surgical, intelligence-driven strikes that target holdouts of the battered Abu Sayyaf group.


The four senior officials said the strike on the Abu Sayyaf lair employed GPS-guided bombs, a previously unavailable technology acquired from the United States under a confidential military assistance project.

They spoke on condition of anonymity because they aren’t authorized to discuss those details with the media.

A Philippine military document detailing the project, a copy of which was seen by AP, said US defense contractor Raytheon Co. was to deliver 22 kits last year to convert conventional bombs into precision-guided munitions that could be launched from the OV-10 turboprop.

Accompanying that was crew training, equipment upgrades to allow the OV-10s to deploy the bombs and two test runs.

A military spokesperson, Colonel Arnulfo Marcelo Burgos, said the Armed Forces of the Philippines “neither confirms nor denies the existence of such munitions citing operational security reasons. However, its pilots have been training vigorously to further improve their proficiency, particularly in the precise delivery of munitions to its identified target.”

Combatants spared

Many Western, Middle Eastern and Asian countries have acquired smart bombs since they were first widely used by the US-led coalition in the 1990-91 Gulf War.

They have guidance kits and fins and use the US GPS satellite system, laser and other technologies to zero in on targets.

Defense Secretary Voltaire Gazmin praised “the carefully planned precision attack” in a statement days after the strike.

The well-planned assault, he said, avoided the military casualties often incurred in ground raids.

Gazmin would not respond to questions about the new bombs in an interview with AP last week, but he said that technology from the Americans has given the military lifesaving skills, such as enabling pilots to fly at night.

Training with US forces has focused on ways to avoid harming noncombatants and wasting resources, he said, citing last month’s air strike.

“We were able to trace that they were all together at a certain time so that was the time to hit,” Gazmin said. “So we took off early morning and bombed them, delivering four bombs. We were successful.”

The Philippine military announced that a top Malaysian terrorist, Zulkifli bin Hir, also known as Marwan, was among the dead, along with Singaporean martial arts instructor Muhamda Ali—whose rebel name is Muawiyah—and Abu Sayyaf commander Gumbahali Umbra Jumdail.

$5-M bounty

But doubts have arisen about the fates of the two foreign terrorists, and two government reports seen by AP contend that Marwan and Muawiyah survived the air strike with minor wounds after they heard the buzz of the OV-10s and fled.

Between nine to 15 militants were killed in the barrage but others quickly dragged away the dead, making it difficult to confirm who was killed, according to military officials.

Marwan is on the FBI list of most-wanted terrorists and has a $5-million bounty on his head. Jumdail had been a key target because he sheltered foreign radicals such as Marwan and Muawiyah and has been blamed for deadly bombings and kidnappings.

The military presumes Marwan and Muawiyah are dead until an investigation shows otherwise, Burgos said, though he added that huge cash rewards for informants who helped find the militants have been put on hold.

Government spies

The air strike shook the terrorists, according to the government reports.

The precision of the attack, and that it came in the dark, told them that they were being targeted by more advanced technology.

It also indicated there were government spies in their ranks and reinforced fears that harboring foreign fugitives would make them magnets for attack.

“They have become very wary of things and equipment that are being brought into their camp, suspecting these were laden with beacons that can be used to track them,” Gazmin said.

Marwan and Muawiyah were lying low with gunmen in a Jolo mountain stronghold, the government reports said, but the top Abu Sayyaf leader in the area, Radulan Sahiron, ordered them out.

Sahiron, who is in his 70s and the group’s most senior leader, has long been wary of outsiders—unlike Jumdail, who also had been treating ill villagers as a quack doctor, providing a window for government surveillance.

Bearer of the Sword

The Abu Sayyaf—or Bearer of the Sword—was founded in 1991 on Basilan Island. With an unwieldy collective of preachers and outlaws, it vowed to wage jihad, or holy war, but lost its key leaders early in combat, sending it on a violent path of extremism and criminality.

Today, the Abu Sayyaf has degenerated into a few loose factions with 381 ragtag fighters and no central leader. But the group remains resilient and is more violent, a military assessment said, citing 74 atrocities committed last year, including 17 kidnappings, 16 bombings and 14 killings and ambushes—far more than each of the five previous years.

Still its setbacks are reflected in a poster of the most-wanted terrorists and bandits printed nearly 10 years ago by the US and Philippine governments.

Of the 24 portraits, 19 have been killed or captured. The deaths of two—Marwan and Jumdail—are unconfirmed. Only three others remain at large.

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  • PHtaxpayer

    More American propaganda…smart bombs are not always so smart.  They are merely a way to avoid American soldiers going into combat in Third World countries like Vietnam, Iraq, Afghanistan and oh yes, our favorite, the PH.
      Look for video documentary of 2001 Battle of Qala-i-Jangi in Afghanistan where CIA used smart bombs on Taliban prisoners.  A GBU-32 or 2000-lb. smart bomb accidentally killed 30 allied Northern Alliance soldiers and destroyed their tank.

    Another smart bomb from US carriers in October 2001 attack on Taliban went astray and hit a poor neighborhood near Kabul airport killing 300 innocent civilians. 

    Smart bombs and drones are high tech weapons which kill thousands of innocent civilians due to misses or collateral damage.  Pakistan has complained to the US that over 3000 documented cases of civilians killed by drones.  

    Yes, smart bombs are “smart” because they kill non-Americans.

    And you guys are happy the US is engaged in combat operations in our own country?  You are dumber than a dumb bomb.  Sad.

    • sinauna

       eh di hingi ka sa russia yung bumabalik kung saan galing, o di kaya sa north korea namamhinga sa kalagitnaan ng dagat pagnapagod ang missile, pero ano gusto mo antayin  na lang na isa mga kakilala mo maging biktima ng mga sira ulong abu sayaaf na ito at saka ka hhiingi  ng tulong kahit kay satanas para mawala lang sila

      tyong nagpapabilib ka lang siguro na nagbabasa ka ng mga events sa ibang bansa, nagyari na yun ,mas mabuti nanag gamitan itong mga ito ng kahit dumb bomb basta mawala lang sila kesa wala  tayong ginagawa habang naghahasik sila ng lagim sa sambayanan

      • PHtaxpayer

        haha you just proved my point.  You can’t even argue in English.  Siguro all you know is, “Hey Joe, give me money!”

    • Colbert Bellevue

      No question that there rooms for mistakes when using “smart bomb.” Like anything else in war, there is a chance for error and possible casualties. So, what is the viable alternative? Let the AbuSayaff and allies take over the Philippines or have the US military assistance? 
      It is not just enough to comment on how bad smart bombs are, what is your best solutions to combat the deadly Islamic terrorist organizations in the Philippines? Do nothing, prayerize, and build castle in the sky in the hope that things will fix themselves up.

      • PHtaxpayer

        You obviously are not Filipino so you don’t know what our problems are.  

        The Abu Sayyaf, NPA or MILF can never take over the PH because they are a small minority and do not have popular support, unlike the communist movement in China or Vietnam of the 1950’s and ’60’s.  The reason why they thrive in Mindanao is because that is the most undeveloped and neglected part of the country when it comes to govt support and infrastructure.  

        Much of the riches taken from Mindanao goes to the national govt and a few elite and powerful clans instead of benefiting the people of Mindanao. Mindanao has a power shortage despite its plentiful rivers and lakes, coal mines and oil.  Most of its children do not receive any or have little education.  Much of the land is owned by absentee landlords from other parts of the country or warlords who run their area with private armies as if it were the 14th century England or Japan.  Huge tracts of land are used for exports or mining for multinational companies but little goes back to the local populace.I don’t care how many Abu Sayyaf or NPA you kill there if you don’t solve the problem of corruption, inequality, lack of education and injustice.  The solution to Mindanao is a political solution and cannot be solved with military actions.If you don’t believe me, you only have to look at other countries like Vietnam where 2 superpowers were defeated by a peasant army because the people were convinced that the colonial govt was not serving them.  Same thing happened in China also where a peasant army beat the KMT Army of Gen. Chiang Kai Shek who was supported by US and western powers.  Same thing happened in Cuba, Nicaragua and others.  US military tried to put their own people in govt but the people revolted and kicked them out.MIndanao is probably the richest island when it comes to natural resources but the poorest if you look at the standard of living for its people.  P-Noy must convince the people of Mindanao that their govt is out to serve and benefit them.  Otherwise, insurgency will always be a problem no matter what you do.

  • Ronald

    let’s give the abu sayaff and milf 2 or 3 years more and they will also have their smart bombs courtesy of our enterprising generals

    • murtson

      That would be another Philippine record… rebels owning armalite and other arms and ammunitions bought from the military according to the US observer. Generals sometimes are the general problem in the peace and order effort of the government.

  • Ronald

    Bearer of the Sword is a misnomer for the Abu Sayaff, it should be Bearer of the Trident

  • Platypus09

    Good job AFP.

    You are going to right directions in keeping or restoring peace and order in Mindanao.

    Whatever it takes to defeat these lawless rebels of the area. I am all for them.

    • PHtaxpayer

      You are deluding yourself.  AFP cannot “restore peace” in Mindanao.  Only a political solution can do that.  Only Filipino’s and the people of Mindanao can solve that problem.

      Spain and the US never conquered Mindanao.  You think AFP can do it with a few Vietnam-era weapons and some US assistance?  US lost to Vietnam, never was able to stop Iraqi insurgency from their illegal invasion of 2001, never stopped the Taliban, what makes you think they can solve our Mindanao problem?

      You people ought to start using your brains instead of believing American propaganda.  You’ve been watching too much TV and playing COD and othe video games.

  • m1600


  • Raphael

    pwde palang isakay yung smart bomb sa tora tora??panu nangyari yun??
    media hype na naman to!!
    malamang gawa lng sa bulacan yung smart bomb na yun!hahahaha

    • Mamang Pulis

      HAHAHA…TORA TORA…sir naka park na yan sa museo

      pati yun F5 at yun binili sa italya…

  • Budoy

    pa smart smart bomb pa. dali lang ng solusyon dyan. i deploy na lahat ng sundalo sa Mindanao at wag tigilan ang kampayan. wala pa isang taon ubos ang mga lintek na yan.  isama na si abnoy para may reserbang bala sa kanyon.

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