Hunt on for 4 Malaysian JI members
ZAMBOANGA CITY, Philippines—The police and military intelligence communities in Zamboanga City and in Western Mindanao are now in search of four suspected Jemaah Islamiyah (JI) members who allegedly arrived through the so-called backdoor last year.
Senior Supt. Angelito Casimiro, the city police director, told the Inquirer that all four were Malaysian citizens.
“Their plan was to go straight to Basilan, then board a plane from Zamboanga to Manila and then to the Middle East,” he said, quoting an information provided by the Bureau of Immigration and Deportation (BID) in Tawi-Tawi.
Casimiro said based on what the BID had told them, Malaysian authorities also provided details on the four Malaysian nationals.
It has yet to be confirmed whether the four are students of slain Malaysian terrorist Zulkifli bin Hir, also known as “Marwan,” who is one of the most wanted JI leaders operating in Southeast Asia.
After their arrival here during the first quarter of 2014, Casimiro said the four foreigners went to Basilan to join the group of Puruji Indama, a Basilan-based Abu Sayyaf subleader.
“We suspect that they went to Basilan either to train Abu Sayyaf members in bomb-making or as students of Indama,” Casimiro said.
The Aviation Security Group, port security and those manning bus terminals had been provided copies of photos of the four Malaysian JI members as there were also reports that they were moving in and out of Basilan to other Western Mindanao areas, he said.
But Casimiro admitted that they don’t have warrants of arrest for these overstaying Malaysians.
Third Moro rebel group
Meanwhile, the “third group” involved in the bloody clash in Mamasapano, Maguindanao, on Jan. 25, denied that its forces looted firearms and personal belongings from the slain members of the Special Action Forces (SAF).
Ibrahim Malang, acting spokesperson of the United Islamic Movement for Justice (UIMJ), a breakaway group of the Umra Kato’s Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Movement, admitted their participation in the encounter but said they had to withdraw shortly after two wounded members were rushed home. Both later died due to serious injuries.
Malang said he was speaking on behalf of UIMJ leader Mohammad Ali Tambako.
Asked whether they had plans of returning any firearms seized from slain SAF men, Malang said their members did not loot from the corpses of the police commandos.
Malang said their men would not have been interested in “Korean-made” firearms even if they had seen them in the battlefield. The UIMJ spokesperson was shown photos of the firearms returned by the Moro Islamic Liberation Front.
During the Senate hearing on the Mamasapano tragedy last week, MILF chief negotiator Mohagher Iqbal first dropped the name of Tambako as among leaders of three groups operating in Mamasapano. The other two groups are the MILF’s 105th Base Command under Zacaria Goma and the Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters (BIFF), under Kagui Karialan.
“It is public knowledge that the BIFF broke into three groups—the group of Ameril Umba Kato, the one of Kagui Karialan, and the group of Muhammad Ali Tambako. But now, Tambako has formed another group, and its name is one that has the word ‘justice’ in it,” Iqbal said at the sidelines of the turnover of the 16 firearms to the government on Monday.
Abu Misri Mama, spokesperson of the BIFF, confirmed that Tambako had bolted the BIFF but Karialan remains as Kato’s deputy leader.
Malang said Tambako left the BIFF to clear his name, after being implicated in criminal charges that the rebel group was facing for the series of attacks in North Cotabato in 2010, 2012 and 2013.
Another reason, Malang said, as to why Tambako left the BIFF is his “principle of championing the cause of the poor through economic jihad (which literally means ‘struggle’).”
He said Tambako learned it from the late MILF chair Salamat Hashim that armed military jihad could fail, without political component, sustained by “economic and inner self jihad for both collective and individual well-being.”
Malang said Tambako had encouraged and loaned financial capital and basic family provisions to his farming relatives to plant banana in their own farm lots in three villages, which he did not want publicly disclose for security reason.
He said the UIMJ was not formed as an anti-government armed group but as an educational and economic movement to be able to address the root causes of the problem of the Moro community, which are injustice, poverty and ignorance.
However, Malang said it is necessary for individuals to be armed with guns in interior communities for security and self-defense from “seasonal intruders imposing unjust taxation upon our people.” He hinted that UIMJ members were only forced to join the Jan. 25 clash.
“That is why this group is a movement for justice based on Islam and unity against injustice,” Malang said.
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