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Abu Sayyaf reduced to ‘plain bandits’–Armed Forces chief

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By Joel Guinto, Agence France-Presse
First Posted 12:50:00 06/26/2008

MANILA, Philippines – (UPDATE) The Abu Sayyaf has been reduced to being “plain bandits” that make money off kidnap for ransom activities due to a “leadership vacuum” that has made funds scarce, Armed Forces Chief Alexander Yano said Thursday.

This was shown by the kidnapping of an ABS-CBN television news crew and their guide in Sulu province earlier this month, Yano told the
Foreign Correspondents Association of the Philippines (FOCAP) at a forum in Makati City.

Since the death of Abu Sayyaf chieftain Khadaffy Janjalani and his second-in command, Jainal Antel Sali alias Abu Solaiman two years ago, Yano said the military had not monitored an “acknowledged leader.”

“We still look at them as a loose organization with some splinter groups, in fact, some of them may be conducting their own operations, and now, has degenerated into a money-making group devoid of any ideology or cause,” Yano said.

Yano said funding from the group’s “conduits” outside the country have been “closed or cut off” following the demise of their leaders.

“We cannot confirm a single leader in the stature of Janjalani, who could have welded together the Abu Sayyaf into a united, formidable group,” he said.

The military chief reiterated that intelligence-driven “surgical strikes” by specialized units, and not an “all-out” offensive, was underway against the al Qaeda-linked rebels.

Though barred from combat, the American advisers have provided intelligence as well as training that helped local troops make headway in counter-terrorist operations, Yano said.

He described the role of the US forces in the southern Philippines as “more of the technical and training.”

“They don’t participate in any combat actions but they assist us in terms of training our forces. They assist us through some technical equipment, but the actual operations are done by our own forces.”

The help of the US, which lists the Abu Sayyaf as a foreign terrorist organization and has paid bounties for the arrest or killing of its leaders, had been significant, Yano said.

“Most of the neutralization of the high-value targets, the high-profile targets that we have neutralized in the recent past were effected with assistance from our counterparts. They are a big help.”

He also confirmed that the Americans also helped the Filipino forces track the kidnappers of the ABS-CBN television team during the nine-day hostage crisis.

The Abu Sayyaf has been blamed for kidnappings of western tourists and Christian missionaries as well as deadly bombings of ferries, shopping malls and buses.

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Written by joelguinto

ThuUTC2008-06-26T07:43:40+00:00UTC06bUTCThu, 26 Jun 2008 07:43:40 +0000 22, 2006 at 12:45 am06

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