Abu bomb expert captured
- Christina Mendez, Paolo Romero () - November 15, 2002 - 12:00am
A terror plot to bomb Metro Manila was foiled as government intelligence agents captured a foreign-trained leader of the Abu Sayyaf group’s urban special operations group in Pasay City last Tuesday.

Abdulmukim Edris, 30, who uses the aliases Mukim Ebris, Hamil Hamja Ajilul, Alex and Ryan, had a P1-million bounty on his head. The arrest of Edris helped foil planned attacks on government installations, foreign embassies and shopping malls in Metro Manila, President Arroyo said after presenting the suspect to the media at Villamor Air Base in Pasay City.

Investigators said Edris also admitted having masterminded a spate of bomb attacks in Zamboanga City last Oct. 17 that left at least 23 people dead and over a hundred wounded.

Edris was arrested by agents of the Phi-lippine Air Force (PAF)’s 300th Air Intelligence and Security Group while about to board a Taguig-bound jeepney at the vicinity of Villamor Air Base in Pasay City.

Police and military officials led by Armed Forces chief Gen. Benjamin Defensor and PAF commander Lt. Gen. Nestor Santillan presented Edris to President Arroyo during a press briefing yesterday at the Kalayaan Lounge of Villamor Air Base shortly before she flew to Batangas City for a ceremonial switch-on of the 1,200-megawatt Ilijan natural gas combined cycle power plant.

Officials said Edris has admitted that about 20 members of his unit are in Metro Manila for their bombing missions, targeting embassies, vital facilities, shopping malls and other public places.

They said the hit list included the Phi-lippine Stock Exchange, the Ortigas-EDSA flyover, SM malls, Robinsons’ Place in Manila and the Sunshine Mall in Taguig.

Police and military agents have launched a massive manhunt for the other members of Edris’ group.

The agents also captured a sketch of a truck bomb loaded with drums of ammonium nitrate that Edris’ group had planned to use in their terror attacks.

Edris has also confessed to investigators that he and two other Abu Sayyaf members trained for one month in Basilan in the preparation of car bombs and manufacture of improvised time bombs using cellular phones and alarm clocks.

He said their instructors were two Yemeni bomb experts believed to be members of the al-Qaeda and Jemaah Islamiyah terrorist cell in Southeast Asia.

Authorities said Edris has 11 warrants of arrest issued by the regional trial court in Isabela, Basilan for a string of pending criminal cases, including murder and kidnapping for ransom.

Edris was tagged as the mastermind in the bombing of the Shoppers’ Plaza, Shop-o-rama and Shoppers’ Center in Zamboanga City last Oct. 17 that left at least seven people dead and 152 others wounded.

He was also implicated in the bomb attacks on a nightclub in Malagutay, Zamboanga City last Oct. 2 where four people, one of them an American soldier, died and 25 others wounded; the blast in a church in Fort Pilar shrine that killed a Marine trooper and wounded 18 other people, as well as the explosion in a public health center in the city that left six people dead and about 50 others wounded.

Edris was also identified by some victims of the Dos Palmas kidnapping as one of the Abu Sayyaf gunmen who swooped down on the posh resort in Palawan in May last year.

One of the hostages, Joel Guillo, was at the press conference at Kalayaan Lounge and pointed to Edris as one of their tormentors.

The Abu Sayyaf gunmen rounded up 20 employees and guests of the resort, including Americans, and took them by boat to Basilan.

Sources in Zamboanga City, quoting former Dos Palmas captives, said the two Yemenis arrived in Mindanao in early September last year, and left Basilan through Lantawan town on Oct. 5, 2001 accompanied by Abu Sayyaf chieftain Khaddafi Janjalani.

They said the Yemenis were even jubilant when the al-Qaeda staged the Sept. 11 attack on the World Trade Center in New York.

Defensor said the arrest of Edris came after six months of rigid intelligence work dubbed "Operation Gideon Alpha," launched through the collaboration of the AFP deputy chief for intelligence, the Philippine National Police Intelligence Group (PNP-IG) and Task Force Sanlahi, the Military Intelligence Group 15 and the National Intelligence Coordinating Agency.

"This proves how through cooperation and focused effort, we can hunt down a terrorist and render him powerless before he even gets the chance to deliver his deadly Christmas package," Defensor said.

"But this also shows the face of this new menace that is quietly creeping into our cities; that is extremely difficult to predict," he added.

PNP-IG director Chief Superintendent Jaime Caringal theorized that the plot to stage bomb attacks in Metro Manila was hatched during a meeting of al-Qaeda leaders in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia in July last year.

"The Abu Sayyaf sent an emissary to meet with al-Qaeda operatives in Kuala Lumpur to seek financial support and assistance to mount terrorist attacks in the country (Philippines)," Caringal said.

He added that the al-Qaeda leaders vowed to provide financial support and technical expertise to the Abu Sayyaf provided that the Islamist terror group shuns banditry and focus on conducting attacks against local and foreign "enemies of Islam" in the country.
MILF plot to bomb Metro Manila thwarted
Meanwhile, joint elements of the police and the military arrested yesterday at the North Harbor in Manila four suspected members of the separatist Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF), one of them a woman, and seized explosive materials including two rocket-propelled grenades.

The four suspected members of the Muslim separatist group were arrested upon arrival at the North Harbor in Tondo from Cotabato City.

Police withheld the identities of the suspects pending completion of investigation.

The suspects were taken to the PNP headquarters in Camp Crame for tactical interrogation on the possible link of the MILF with the al- Qaeda and the Jemaah Islamiyah terror groups.

The agents discovered two rocket-propelled grenades concealed inside a box of bananas as well as two pipe bombs hidden in tire interiors brought in by the suspects.

The arrest bolstered the authorities’ suspicions that the MILF has links with the al-Qaeda and the Jemaah Islamiyah, but leaders of the rebel group have denied the allegations.

In another development, a suspected Abu Sayyaf gunman was killed while a soldier was wounded when Army rangers clashed with the bandit group in Isabela City in Basilan the other night.

Army Col. Bonifacio Ramos said elements of the 1st Scout Ranger Battalion led by Lt. Col. Renato Padua encountered the Abu Sayyaf band following a tip from villagers in Barangay Lower Kapayawan, Isabela City.

The firefight lasted only five minutes.

The slain bandit was identified as Alegari Asgari whose body was left behind by his fleeing comrades.

In Marawi City, police nabbed yesterday another suspected Abu Sayyaf member implicated in the mass abduction of students and teachers on March 23, 2000 in Tuburan town in Basilan.

The suspect, identified as Kahir Muktar Panggagaga, has pending cases of kidnapping and illegal detention, police said.

Catholic priest Fr. Rhoel Gallardo, who was among those captured by the bandits, was eventually tortured and killed, while two male teachers were beheaded by the kidnappers.
CA urged to freeze Sayyaf assets
Government lawyers asked the Court of Appeals to freeze the bank accounts of Abu Sayyaf bandits all over the country.

The Office of the Solicitor General (OSG) said the Abu Sayyaf assets have been traced to at least 138 local and foreign banks in various provinces ranging from Basilan to Ilocos Sur.

The OSG urged the Appellate Court to extend the freeze order issued by the Anti-Money Laundering Council on Oct. 30 which was good for 15 days only, to give government investigators more time to complete their probe.

Assistant Solicitor General Roman del Rosario and Assistant Solicitor Elpidio Capicoy Jr. said there was an "actual compelling reason" to hold any transactions on such accounts in view of advanced technologies in electronic banking.

"There is imminent certainty that such bank deposits will be removed, transferred, concealed or withdrawn to place them beyong the reach of the law enforcment authorities, the OSG petition stated.

Bank probers said they obtained the information from kidnap victims Angelica Montealegre and espouses Lucio Raul and Divina Gracia REcio who were among the Dos Palmas hostages.

Montealegre’s family reportedly paid P1 million in ransom in September last year, or one month before she was released. The money was turned over to an Abu Sayyaf courier at the Zamboanga City airport.

She also said Abu Sayyaf spokesman Abu Sabaya, who was allegedly killed in a sea encounter with Marines last June, even demanded for P180,000 worth of cell cards during the negotiations for her release.

Montealegre added that Sabaya also demanded for an additional P100,000 and asked that this be deposited either in the account of his sister Satra in Tabuk, Isabela City, or his best friend Alvin Siglos, or Rey Bayugin of Radio Agung of Radio Mindanao Network in Zamboanga City. With reports from Laude, Rey Arquiza, Delon Porcalla, Roel Pareño

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