Sep 152014

Reference ID Created Released Classification Origin
05MANILA1817 2005-04-21 03:07 2011-08-30 01:44 CONFIDENTIAL Embassy Manila
This record is a partial extract of the original cable. The full text of the original cable is not available.
C O N F I D E N T I A L SECTION 01 OF 04 MANILA 001817


E.O. 12958: DECL: 04/19/2015

Classified By: Pol/C Scott Bellard for reasons 1.4 (b) and (d)

¶1. (C). Summary and Comment: National Security Adviser
Norberto Gonzales provided Ambassador with a copy of a report
he presented to the Philippine National Security Council on
March 29 regarding Islamist extremism in the Philippines.
Gonzales has asked us to treat it with due discretion but has
encouraged us to “use it as we see fit with other allies,”
but we should not pass the text to third countries. He said
he has shared it with Singapore already. He views the
prognosis for the Philippines in particular as “bleak.” He
highlights that Islamist extremism in the Philippines was no
longer a reaction to domestic events and policies, but rather
increasingly a reflection of a “global war internal to the
Muslims against so-called ‘Muslim infidels’ and the powers
and nations that support the latter,” i.e. the U.S. and, by
extension, the Philippines. He expresses special concern
that the eventual U.S. success in Iraq will lead to the
dispersion of extremists to other part of the world, with the
Philippines as an unfortunate “ideal host” due to the
existence of Muslim insurgent groups and “conflicting Islamic
denominations within Filipino Muslim communities. He calls
upon the Philippines to “act decisively and hastily” (sic —
a Filipino-ism for “urgently”), while offering concrete
suggestions only to eliminate private armies at Mindanao
State University, re-launch an Islamic bank, and support
Arabic teaching. He fails to raise more substantive goals of
bringing economic development and better governance to Muslim
Mindanao, meeting long-standing demands from local Muslims
for more significant autonomy in the “Autonomous Region in
Muslim Mindanao,” improving counter-terrorism capabilities by
Philippine security forces, and addressing the real factors
that attract Christian converts and local Muslims to the more
radical versions of Islam. Gonzales’ think piece shows that
at least some in the GRP recognize and are trying to grapple
seriously with existential challenges to Philippine democracy
and security. That so few plausible solutions apparently
present themselves to GRP policy-makers underscores the
importance of our intimate strategic and security engagement
with the GRP. End Summary and Comment.

¶2. (C) Begin text of GRP National Security Adviser’s



This report provides a description of the changing face of
Islamist extremism in the Philippines. These changes are
still evolving in their incipient stages and are taking place
against the backdrop of a resurgent threat of international

We are aware of earlier attempts by international terrorist
groups to conduct operations here in the Philippines. Our
first real scare happened in 1995 when the government
discovered and preempted a sinister plot, code named “Oplan
Bojinka”, to assassinate the Pope during his visit to Manila.
Prior to that, our intelligence operatives have already
noted the increased presence and influx of foreign trainors
in MILF camps.

In recent time, the intelligence community has noted more
such indications of international terrorist activities and
infiltration works in the country. If these trends are not
given immediate and proper attention by the government, our
own Mindanao problem could eventually be transformed and
drawn into the larger and more violent form of religious
conflict that is now spreading across the globe.


The early episodes of Islamist extremism in the Philippines
were generally in response to local undertakings. The
all-out military offensive of the Estrada administration
against the MILF in 2002 became a justification for
subsequent bombing attacks in various places in Mindanao and
Metro Manila. The attack on the Buliok Complex in 2003 led
to the Davao Airport and Sasa Wharf bombings in the same
year. This was revealed by Mustaqim bin Abbas, the
Indonesian JI leader who is now detained in Jakarta.

However, there are now indications that Islamist extremism in
the country is no longer a mere reaction to domestic events.
The latest bombing attacks now appear to be
religious-inspired – a seeming realization of a long-term
agenda with religion becoming a central issue behind
terrorist acts.

Nonetheless, the conflict is not between two religions.
While there are continuing attempts to push the conflict as a
religious war between Christianity and Islam, what is
evolving is not so.

In the early nineties, the world began noticing a wave of
Islamic revivalism which had an uncanny resemblance to the
conflicts which occurred during the early years of Islam,
sparked mainly by the death of the Prophet Mohammad. Four
successive caliphates after his death had splintered Islam
into warring groups which, to this day, we have reasonable
ground to believe have been revived recently. This rivalry
is now threatening to transform the global Islamic struggle
into a more dangerous and violent race for supremacy among
these competing factions.

The Islamist extremism that we are witnessing in the
Philippines today are proxies to a global war internal to the
Muslims against so-called ‘Muslim infidels’ and the powers
and nations that support the latter.

The United States is considered as the foremost patron of
major centers of political power in the Muslim world;
defenders of an Islamic world that, to these fanatics, are
governed by infidels to the faith and therefore deserving
annihilation. The Philippines has become a target of these
terrorist agenda because it is known as a loyal ally of the
United States.

Given this framework, our current prognosis is bleak.

Within the wave of mainstream Islamic revivalism happening
around us today, there is a violent, dogmatic and fanatical
parallel that is rising with it. There is reason to predict
that the threat of Islamist extremism will not wane but in
fact swell, especially when a degree of political stability
is obtained in Iraq.

Hundreds of restless elements of the Islamic faith composed
of nationals from the Middle East and other Muslim countries
– hardened veterans of the war in Iraq who purposely trained
in it – will soon become unwelcome there. Once Iraq has
become inhospitable for them, they will disperse to other
parts of the world to spread their sinister misinterpretation
of Islam and continue with their jihad of destruction and the
irrational killing of innocents.

Two conditions make the Philippines an ideal host for these
terrorists: the presence of Muslim armed groups in the South,
ranging from separatists to bandits, and the presence of
conflicting Islamic denominations within Filipino Muslim

Although Professor Mur Misuari, detained MNLF leader, still
remains to be an influential figure within the MNLF –
especially among the Tausugs – it should be noted that in the
Misuari wing of the MNLF, the religious leadership is gaining

As regards the MILF on the other hand, their lack of any
political demand does not necessarily mean that peace
negotiations with them will be any less difficult than what
the GRP had experienced with the MNLF. It could also mean
that the MILF has yet to resolve the issue of whether to
accept autonomy or continue with their original
“Islamization” objective.

“Islamization”, as articulated by the late MILF Chairman
Hashim Salamat in 1996, intended to influence how Islam
should be practiced in Muslim Mindanao and how to purge the
Muslim South of infidels through the creation of an Islamic
enclave in Mindanao.

It should be noted that the original intent of the MNLF was
to cleanse Muslim Mindanao of Datoism and the corruption of
its political leaders. The MILF, on the other hand, was
initiated to “cleanse” the Muslim South of its infidels.

The intelligence community has noted the following key
indications of increased infiltration effort by international
terrorist network in the Philippines. Two templates of
Islamist extremism appear to be merging in the Philippines
today: the direct Middle East (or Al Qaeda) template, and the
Indonesian (Jemaah Islamiyah) template. This merger is best
manifested in the confluence of the Abu Sayyaf Group and the
Rajah Solaiman Revolutionary Movement.

The Abu Sayyaf Group, while notorious for their banditry, is
introducing into the Philippines a fanatical folk religiosity
that is suited to the needs of these international Islamist
The Rajah Solaiman Revolutionary Movement, on the other hand
is mostly composed of Christian converts who were directly
indoctrinated and recruited by Middle Eastern missionaries;
many of its members underwent JI training. There are also
intelligence reports that some 70 Rajah Solaiman members have
already joined the ASG. This reported connection with the
Abu Sayyaf underscores this Mid-East attempt to directly
import their brand of Islamist extremism to the Philippines.

It appears that the Abu Sayyaf and the Rajah Solaiman Group
are the main organizations tapped by both the JI and the
Al-Qaeda for their operations. However, trends indicate that
for other armed Islamic organizations, these international
terrorists prefer to tap, train and recruit their individual

As far back as 2000, after the launching of the deadly Rizal
Day LRT bombings, investigations and interrogation of
suspects revealed that there are some 30 JI members in
Southern Philippines with 10-20 other Indonesian jihadists
working closely together. The LRT attack was a
JI-coordinated and sponsored plot executed by members of the
MILF-Special Operations Group (SOG) operatives led by Moklis

The launching of joint terrorist ventures between local
Islamist extremists and the JI was further reinforced by the
arrest of MILF-SOG member Sammy Abdulgani on April 2004. He
admitted to authorities that he, together with JI leader
Sulkipli, staged the Awang Airport bombing on 23 February
2003 as diversionary ploy to then ongoing conflict in Buliok.
He further revealed that among those involved in the said
bombing operation were detained JI leader Taufiq Rifqe and JI
member who goes by the alias of Usman.

Usman is to later on take over as JI leader in the
Philippines after Zulkifli was arrested in Sabah on September
¶2003. Abdulgani further revealed that when he was arrested,
he and a small group of MILF-SOG were about to execute a
mission to bomb a passenger ferry in major Mindanao ports.
He said that the group was acting on orders and instruction
by Usman.

Last year on October, another MILF-SOG member, Abdulmandap
Mentang, was arrested. He revealed that before Zulkifli was
apprehended, Zulkifli financed and ordered the bombing of the
Davao City International Airport on 4 March 2003 and the Sasa
Wharf on 2 April of the same year, again to ease military
pressure in the Buliok area. When Mentang was arrested, he
was conducting surveillance of the US Embassy in Manila.

Investigation into the February 2004 Super Ferry bombing also
revealed that was a JI-coordinated terrorist plot carried out
by the ASG and the Rajah Solaiman Revolutionary Movement

The government also foiled in 2003 a JI/ASG plot to attack
various tourist destination resorts in the Visayas and
maritime vessels plying the routes to and from Mindanao. On
the other hand, the arrest of a leading RSRM member Marianno
Lumarda, uncovered and preempted a plot to bomb the US and
Saudi embassies in Manila.

A few days after last February 14’s terrorist attacks in
Metro Manila and Davao City, ASG member Gamal Baharan @ Tapat
and Rajah Solaiman member Angelo Trinidad @ Abu Khalil
Trinidad were nabbed as primary suspects. Later on, a third
suspect, Gappal Bannah y Sali @ Boy Negro, surrendered.

Per testimony by Baharan, the JI and ASG cooperated in
conducting seaborne training activities in preparation for a
JI bombing plot on unspecified targets outside the
Philippines. Trinidad is also a suspect in the Super Ferry
bombing. Sali, on the other hand, also trained in a JI camp
in Mindanao. Many of the members of groups with which major
Islamist terrorist groups have conducted joint operations,
such as the Rajah Solaiman Revolutionary Movement were
trained by the JI.

This confirms intelligence reports that some 100 Islamist
extremists have undergone training under the JI from the
period 1996 to 1998 alone.


The religious temperament of its communities will determine
if Muslim Mindanao will remain fertile ground for terrorists
or will become inhospitable to these Islamist extremists.

Several factors are essential. A strong, affirmative
government presence is important, particularly through our
local government officials there. Learning institutions like
the Mindanao State University must be rid of the presence of
private armies and restore academic excellence. The Muslim
south must be linked to a Islamic financial system by
re-launching the Al-Amanah Bank, allowing its ownership by
wider, Muslim public. Government must also support and
supervise the teaching of the Arabic language because this is
their gateway to a deeper, more moderate understanding of the
Koran. Establish cooperation and understanding with the
Muslim South’s religious leaders. Their influence will
determine to which direction the scale will tip for the
Muslim South:

We end this report with a reiteration of our major concern
about the new challenges the Philippine government is
confronting in the wake of the resurgence of global Islamist

The real and potential danger or threat posed by
international terrorist trends has become more complex and
disturbing. Old and bitter rivalries among warring Islamic
factions are being revived, opening the stage for what
appears geared towards a more violent struggle for supremacy
through the conduct of terrorism all over the world.

More so now than in the past, the Philippines could become a
preferred destination for the launching of infiltration work
and terrorist operations by international terrorist groups.
This is because of the country’s terrorism-enabling
environment that makes it an ideal springboard for the spread
of Islamist extremism in these parts of the globe. If the
trends we mentioned indicating increased linkages and
cooperation between leading international terrorist groups
and their local counterparts here would not be addressed
immediately and properly, the risks would be unacceptably
high. Failure on the part of the government to act
decisively and hastily on the matter could draw our own
Mindanao problem into the larger, more violent Islamist
extremism that is now unfolding in the Muslim world.
End text



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