Negotiating peace with terrorists (1)
GOTCHA - Jarius Bondoc () - August 11, 2003 - 12:00am
The Moro Islamic Liberation Front now claims to want an end to a decade of separatist warfare and is restarting peace talks with government. Weeks ago police arrested Saifullah Yunos, head of the MILF special operations group. Better known by his nom de guerre Muklis, Yunos readily confessed to the Rizal Day bombings of 2000 that killed 22 persons and wounded over a hundred in Metro Manila. The MILF disowned him and his terror tactics. But interrogation showed that the rebel hierarchy not only had ordered his dastardly deed, but also has ties with Jemaah Islamiah, the al-Qaeda’s Southeast Asian arm. This raises the question of why government is negotiating with terrorists in the first place. Following is a condensation of Muklis’s admissions to the PNP-Intelligence Group:

May 25, 2003, 10 a.m. – Elements of PNP-IG and Regional Aviation Security Group-10 arrested Diah-al-Gabri and Saiffulah Yunos, @Muklis, while they were checking in at Cagayan de Oro City airport. Airline staff reported two suspicious-looking passengers: Egyptian al-Gabri and a Filipino companion in a stretcher registered as Alex Soriano. A check showed that al-Gabri is in the international terrorist watch list provided by our foreign counterparts. The passenger booked as Soriano turned out to be actually Muklis, identified by an asset of Regional Intelligence Office-10.

Muklis has a warrant of arrest for multiple murder, frustrated and attempted murder under criminal case 02-198633, Manila regional trial court-54, for the light railway transit bombing on Dec. 30, 2000. Brought to this Group, he was identified by Indonesian Fathur Rohman al-Ghozi and Cosain Ramos, @Abu Ali, a coaccused who procured the explosives.

Personal background:
Saifullah Umpara Yunos, Aliases: Muklis, Ismael, Tayyar Jafar Maute. Address: Tuca Ambolong, Marawi. Birthdate (in passport): 7 July 1966. Age: 31, Birthplace: Sawer, Masiu, Lanao del Sur. Sex: male. Tribe: Maranao. Languages spoken: Maranao, Tagalog, Arabic.

Physical description:
5’3" tall, medium build, 60 kg., black hair, black eyes, fair complexion, no distinguishing marks.

Spouse: Saima Sarif. Married: 7 Sept. 1991, Masiu. Children: Aisah H. Yonos, approx. 1 yr.-2 mos., adopted. Parents: father, Haji Yunos Messenger, farmer; mother, Pezendonga Umpara. Siblings: Salam H. Yunos Sawir, Kadidiya H. Yunos, Amina H. Yunos Sawir.

Muklis began schooling at Masiu Elementary School, Brgy. Sawer. His studies went well from Grades 1 to V. Though he did not excel in class, Muklis claims to have been keen in his studies. In Grade V he experienced a wave of violence that followed the declaration of martial law on 21 Sept. 1972 by President Ferdinand Marcos. He recounted hardships his family and neighbors went through when the barangay was bombarded by the military. The whole place was destroyed.

His family relocated to Masiu poblacion. Living in a makeshift tudla (lean-to), they made do with two meals a day. Muklis’s bapa (uncle) Datu Tanub Pendagaw later took them into his house. When Muklis was eight, they moved to Butig, Lanao del Sur. For six years he helped his father cultivate a one-hectare farm leased from another bapa Talikop Umpara.

At age 15 Muklis joined his sister Kadidija, a teacher at Brgy. Tanub, Masiu. He went to Majad Masiu for the equivalent of 1st-year high school, where he was initiated into Muslim education in Hisab (math); Fique (ablution, prayer); personal code (family upbringing); Hadith (Word of Prophet Mohammad); Tariq (history of Mohammad) Quran (Book of Allah); Bagah (grammar); Mantiq (psychology); Tahwid; Mutallah. Muklis then went to Majad Mindanao (now named Jameo Muslim Mindanao) in Marawi where he finished high school.

After high school Muklis aimed for a degree in Islamic studies. With help from Macaangos Mimbantas, former mayor of masui and brother of (MILF leader) Aleem Abdul Aziz Mimbantas, Muklis acquired a passport.

In Nov. 1986 Muklis flew to Pakistan to enroll at the Internal Islamic University. But entrance exams were six months away; Muklis was told to wait. Afghan student Abu Mohammad Murad persuaded him to join the jihad of their Muslim brothers in Afghanistan, then at war with the Soviet Union. Recruitment was done by Filipino students at IIU. As an obligation, Muklis signed up for training.

Shortly upon returning to the Philippines in June 1989, he enlisted with the MILF as a private assigned to the Internal Security Force under Aleem Mimbantas. After two years at ISF, Muklis was promoted and assigned to the 3rd Field Division under Aleem Solaiman Pangalian. He served as company commander of the 3rd FD-Special Operations Group.

In 1991-99 Muklis operated solely for the 3rd FD-SOG. He admitted to personally leading the bombing of a Napocor transmission tower in Bobong, Lanao del Sur, sometime Mar. 1999.

Muklis said that former President Joseph Estrada "declared all-out war against the MILF in the second quarter of 2000. MILF chief Hashim Salamat in turn declared jihad with approval of the MILF Jihad Council.

Solaiman of the 3rd FD ordered special units to stage attacks outside the province to ease the military concentration in Camp Abubakar. Muklis, with assurance of financial support from co-conspirator Fathur Rohman al-Ghozi, @Abu Saad, launched MILF jihad bombings in Metro Manila. Muklis said al-Ghozi funded his expenses for transportation, food, lodging and bomb components. In turn Muklis helped al-Ghozi procure explosives from his sources. Al-Ghozi needed explosives for a similar jihad of Jemaah Islamiah in Indonesia.

His role in the sabotage exposed, Muklis was put on "floating status" at the 3rd FD-SOG from Jan. 2001 to Apr. 2002. He moved constantly in villages around Lake Lanao to avoid capture. Among the places he stayed: Binidayan, Saganasi, Lumbay Nagi, and Marawi.(To be continued).
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