Early in the 1990s, long before 9/11 and while the US government and allies were still half asleep, Osama bin Laden and friends were setting up a worldwide terror network.
An important locally based cog in this global wheel of terror was Abu Sayyaf. A strictly Philippines-based group, the Bearer of the Sword, also known as al-Harakatul Islamiyah, was founded by bin Laden’s brother-in-law, financed by the Saudi terrorist, and headed by a Filipino graduate of the anti-Soviet jihad and Islamist training camps.
For more than 15 years, the links between al-Qaeda, Abu Sayyaf, and the bigger Jemaah Islamiyah centered lately in next-door Indonesia always have posed a mortal danger to the Philippines. But at least officials have gained some experience and some tactics against the international terrorist threat.
On Thursday (March 6), authorities in Manila arrested a Jordanian with a false passport, since identified as Khalil Hasan Al-Alih, and two other unidentified men from the Middle East. They apparently had plans to kill President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo and bomb the Manila embassies of the US, UK, Israel and Australia.
Just how advanced their plans were, and what chances they had of pulling them off, are unknown. But the men were talking directly to Abu Sayyaf in the southern Philippines. The links continue despite heavy attempts to wipe out Abu Sayyaf as a viable force in the confusing provinces and islands of the southern Philippines.