I saw this AP news 31 minutes after it came out in the Instablogs AP wire feed. I have said it before that Associated Press may be quick but not entirely accurate. So, for a more ground feel, here are a few corrections to the AP news:
(1) The title reads ‘ Abu Sayyaf’s new generation threatens Philippines.’
No such thing as Abu Sayyaf’s new generation. It’s still the old gang, though some of the earlier leaders have been killed. It’s still the same banditry for this radical Islamist group. They are also bombers and are known to behead kidnapped hostages who cannot pay up the ransom. They also torch villages of fellow Muslims.
(2) Abu Sayyaf has always been tagged as ‘al-Qaeda-linked.’ It’s only media and the US that appends this tag. The Abu Sayyaf never heralds any link to the al-Qaeda. Which brings us to the real score in this ubiquitous al-Qaeda link tag. The Abu Sayyaf wants to be known as is, not in any connection with any group. Such is the case, too, with almost all radical Islamist groups. Makes one think what this al-Qaeda brouhaha is all about, anyway.
(3) The Abu Sayyaf has never been “all but dead, thanks to a much-heralded joint effort against terrorism by the US and the Philippine military.”
The group never ‘died.’ I’m not sure what the US participation is to this ‘much-heralded joint effort against terrorism…’
If the US, indeed, has participation, then there’s truth to the rumor that the US meddles in the military affairs of the Philippines, in the name of the infamous Visiting Forces Agreement (VFA).
There is no “fear that the Abu Sayyaf may be coming back.” It never left.
(4) “The rebirth of Abu Sayyaf raises renewed fears of terrorism.”
The Philippines does not necessarily regard Abu Sayyaf as a terror group. That’s giving this criminal syndicate too much credit. This group is not into terror per se. It is basically a radical Islamist group of marauding and pillaging bandits who has made a highly lucrative business in kidnap-for-ransom (basically, that is). They are into other money-making nefarious activities, but kidnap-for-ransom is their most popular profile.
This group, though, has offered its camps as training ground for Indonesia-originating Jemaah Islamiyah bombers. This has nothing to do with any religious ideology. The use of the camp for training is for a fee.
The Abu Sayyaf is said to be coddling the Bali bombers Umar Patek and Dulmatin in their southern Philippines stronghold. This may be true, as Patek and Dulmatin ran back to the Abu camps after a crackdown on these bombers in Indonesia.
(5) “The Philippine military did not have the funds for a full-out assault against Abu Sayyaf, so American troops came in with weapons, combat training and surveillance. They helped rein in a brief but brutal era of mass kidnappings, bombings and beheadings by the militants. Washington has poured millions of dollars into the Philippines in military assistance and civic projects.”
American soldiers are in the Philippines via the joint Philippine-US military training exercises a.k.a. Visiting Forces Agreement (VFA) precisely because the US troops want the Philippine military to teach them jungle warfare which they thought they sorely lacked after Desert Storm. So, American troops did not ‘come in with combat training and surveillance’ to help Philippine troops. What they did, and are still doing, is learning combat training and surveillance in jungle warfare from Philippine troops. The best training lesson around happens to be the Abu Sayyaf.
Is Associated Press purely American?
What is absolutely true is that the Abu Sayyaf members are multimillionaires. They have raked in multimillion dollar ransoms from their victims through the years.
It is also true that they are nothing but bandits using Islam as a convenient alibi. No one believes their invocation of jihad, though.
And, yes, it is absolutely true that this group has victimized their fellow Muslims, and that Muslims in the Philippines regard them as a complete shame to their faith.
Jihad can sometimes be a multi-million dollar business.