Abu Sayyaf leader joins FBI ‘most wanted’

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02:32 AM November 16th, 2012

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November 16th, 2012 02:32 AM

Omar Shafik Hammami, an Alabama man believed to be operating with terrorists in Somalia, has been put on the FBI’s list of “most wanted terrorists.” AP Photo/FBI

The United States Federal Bureau of Investigation has placed on its “most wanted terrorists” list Raddulan Sahiron, an Abu Sayyaf leader the FBI says was involved in the 1993 kidnapping of an American in the Philippines.

The US Department of State’s Rewards for Justice program is offering a reward of up to $1 million (around P41 million at today’s rates) for information leading to the arrest of Sahiron, who is believed to be in the Sulu archipelago.

Sahiron was indicted in US federal court in 2007 in connection with the kidnapping of an unnamed American citizen who was held hostage for 23 days on the island of Jolo.

The aging Sahiron, based in Patikul town, Sulu province, is also known as Commander Putol after he lost his right hand in a battle with the Philippine military in the 1970s.

Lately, he was linked to the abduction of Jordanian journalist Baker Atyani, the Dubai-based bureau chief of Al-Arabiya News Network, and the latter’s two Filipino cameramen, Ramelito Vela and Rolando Letrero, in June.

According to reports, Atyani’s group was seen with Sahiron.

In July last year, a clash between a Marine battalion and Sahiron-led terrorists resulted in seven Marines killed, including a junior officer, and the wounding of more than 20 others. The troops were combing Sulu in search of kidnap victims when they stumbled on an Abu Sayyaf camp.

In 2008, ABS-CBN news anchor Ces Drilon attempted to interview Sahiron but she along with her two cameramen ended up being held hostage in the Sulu jungle.

In 2005, the government erroneously announced that Sahiron had been captured. Then President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo publicly announced that the hunt for the one-armed terror suspect had ended. But less than a day after the announcement, the police said it had bagged the wrong man.

The late Interior Secretary Jesse Robredo had said that aside from Atyani, Vela and Letrero, Sahiron’s group was also believed holding Indian national Biju Kolara Veetil, who was seized on June 22, 2011.

Sahiron’s group has also been reported holding Swiss national Lorenzo Vinciguerra and Dutchman Ewold Horn, bird watchers who were kidnapped in Tawi-Tawi in February, and Carlos Tee, a Jolo airport engineer who was seized in April.

The al-Qaeda-linked Abu Sayyaf was put on the US terror blacklist in 1997, the FBI said.

The Islamist group was set up in the 1990s with seed money from Osama bin Laden’s al-Qaeda network, according to the Philippine military, and has been blamed for the country’s worst terrorist attacks.

These include the bombing of a passenger ferry on Manila Bay that killed over 100 people in 2004, as well as kidnappings of foreigners and Filipinos in southern Mindanao where it is based.

The FBI also added to its Seeking Information–Terrorism list the American “rapping jihadi,” an operative of Somalia’s al-Qaeda linked Shebab insurgents who uses rap as a propaganda tool.

Omar Shafik Hammami, who was born in Alabama but is now thought to be living in Somalia, is believed to be a senior leader of the Shebab rebels, who were placed on the Department of State’s terror blacklist in 2008.

The group has “repeatedly threatened terrorist actions against America and American interests,” the FBI said.

Also known as Abu Mansour al-Amriki, Hammami has been releasing rap songs in English on the Internet since 2009 as a recruitment tool, although music is forbidden in al-Qaeda’s strict interpretation of Islam.

In the songs, Hammami says he hopes to be killed by a drone strike or in a cruise missile attack so he can achieve martyrdom.

He invites young people to join the jihad to “wipe Israel off the globe,” and he encourages strikes against the US military in Afghanistan and Somalia.

The FBI is also seeking information on a third man, Shaykh Aminullah, who is suspected of providing material support to terrorists with the help of the Pakistani militant group Lashkar-e-Taiba, designated a terror group in 2001.

The suspect, believed to be living in the Pakistani city of Peshawar, is accused of having provided support in the form of funding and recruits to al-Qaeda and the Taliban.

The recent additions to the list were more an administrative update and less a signal that there was a new urgent need to find these men, FBI officials said. With reports from Julie S. Alipala, Inquirer Mindanao; AFP; Inquirer Research

Originally posted at 03:41 pm | Thursday, November 15, 2012

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