The Abu Sayyaf as PR tool

AN alleged Abu Sayyaf bandit was killed over the weekend. The Philippine National Police immediately placed all its units in Mindanao on full alert.

Sometimes it makes wonder why bandits are hunted, attacked and killed only when American troops come a-visiting. It might just be a coincidence, but it’s too much of a coincidence.

Gafor Jumdail, younger brother of alleged top Abu Sayyaf operative Umbra Jumdail, was reported killed in the 15 minute gunbattle in Maimbung, Sulu, on Saturday, a few hours after the USS George Washington, an American nuclear-powered supercarrier, arrived in Manila.

The aircraft carrier is in the country “for a goodwill visit,” the US Embassy in Manila said in a statement.

The visit of the American troops will supposedly “enhance the strong historic ties between the United States and the Republic of the Philippines through community relations projects and professional exchanges between US and Philippine Navy counterparts.”

If only Umbra was captured with a certain Zulkifli bin Hir (also known as Marwan), a Malaysian Jema’ah Islamiyah operative, the raid would have been a boost to the “historic ties” of the Philippines and the US.

The United States earlier offered a $100,000 bounty for the capture of Umbra Jumdail.

Aside from Gafor, two other alleged bandits – believed to be the sons of Umbra – were killed in the Sulu gunbattle. Several bandits were also believed wounded while no government casualties were reported.

Members of the police Special Action Force staged the operation and reported that high-powered firearms and a “cache of ammunition and subversive documents”  were recovered from the bandits’ lair.

Funny that terrorists these days carry with them “subversive documents.”

By the way, Umbra’s colleague, Marwan, is supposed to be a US-trained engineer who was involved in several bombing incidents in the country.

The United States has offered a $5-million reward for Marwan’s capture.

Umbra and Marwan’s capture would have been a good gift for the Americans who are here for R and R and a good PR achievement for the Aquino administration that recently suffered ridicule for the hostage-taking fiasco that killed eight foreign nationals.

The government needs a lot of good publicity these days after the Luneta hostage incident. And what better international PR than capturing or killing Abu Sayyaf bandits who have been linked to the global al-Qaeda network by the United States.

News reports immediately tagged the killing of the three bandits as “the latest blow to the Abu Sayyaf, a group linked by the United States to the worldwide al-Qaeda terror network.”

“Washington has blacklisted the Abu Sayyaf as a terrorist organization and deployed hundreds of troops in Western Mindanao to train and arm Filipino soldiers battling the bandit gang,” reported the Philippine Daily Inquirer.

It added that the Abu Sayyaf, “which has about 400 gunmen in Jolo and outlying islands,” has been blamed for the Philippines’ worst bomb attacks, kidnapping sprees and for beheading some of its hostages, including an American tourist, who was decapitated in 2001.

“It was held responsible for the bombing of a ferry on Manila Bay in 2004 that killed more than 100 people,” the report said.

A good PR move indeed to humor our visitors.

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