Sep 152014
Reference ID Created Released Classification Origin
2005-01-28 07:07
2011-08-30 01:44
Embassy Manila

This record is a partial extract of the original cable. The full text of the original cable is not available.
S E C R E T SECTION 01 OF 02 MANILA 000463



E.O. 12958: DECL: 01/28/2015

¶B. 04 MANILA 5625

Classified By: Political Officer Joseph Saus
for Reasons 1.4 (b) and (d).

¶1. (C) Summary. A January 27 Armed Forces of the
Philippines (AFP) massive aerial and artillery attack against
several high value terrorist suspects (including ASG leader
Janjalani and key JI operatives linked to the Bali bombing)
killed as many as five terrorists and wounded three.
Confirmation and identification of the killed and wounded
await an examination of the assault site. GRP/MILF talks
slated for early February in Kuala Lumpur appear on track,
with the cease-fire still technically in place. End Summary.

Attacks On a “Who,s Who” Of Suspected High Value Terrorists
——————————————— ————–

¶2. (C) Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) and Moro
Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) contacts on January 28
confirmed to poloff that a massive artillery and aerial
bombardment operation took place around Datu Piang,
Maguindanao on January 27. The attacks reportedly targeted a
spectrum of wanted terrorist leaders, including Abu Sayyaf
Group (ASG) leader Khadafi Janjalani, ASG commanders Abu
Solaiman and Isnilon Hapilon, as many as three Jemmah
Islamiyah operatives (including Dulmatin, the bomb maker for
the Bali bombing), and MILF commander Abdul Wahid Tondok —
wanted by GRP authorities in connection with a January 9 raid
(ref a) against a local AFP detachment that left seven
soldiers dead. (Note: The three ASG members are on the USG’s
Rewards for Justice Program list. end note)

¶3. (SBU) The specific target area was in the Liguasan Marsh,
the same general area as the November 19 attack against a
suspected hideout of Janjalani (ref B). The marsh is a
popular refuge for rebels and terrorists because its swampy
terrain severely hampers (if not prohibits completely)
concealed ground maneuvers.

¶4. (S) The AFP used four OV-10 aircraft with 500 pound
bombs, six artillery guns firing air-burst rounds, two MG-520
helicopters with rockets, two forward air controllers, and an
AFP military intelligence fusion unit. US assistance in the
operation included operations and intelligence fusion at the
6th Infantry Division Headquarters and at the brigade level,
satellite imagery of the target area, and Unmanned Aerial
Vehicle (UAV) flights and video footage. Each OV-10 dropped
two or three bombs on the target areas, followed by
artillery. Individuals were seen departing the area on foot
and by boat during the operation.

¶5. (C) According to AFP officials, five suspected terrorists
were killed and three wounded, although so far without
identification and recovery of remains or injured. (Comment:
Emboffs believe that the AFP likely has inflated the number
of true casualties. End Comment.) Major General Zulkifeli,
chief of the Malaysian-led International Monitoring Team
(IMT), told poloff that he was still unclear about the exact
extent of the bomb damage, but promised to inspect the scene
of the assault on January 28, as well as visit with evacuees.

Tentative Talks Not Affected

¶6. (C) The MILF has not responded militarily to this attack,
although the MILF on its website accused the GRP of
“scuttling the cease-fire.” According to MILF contacts, the
MILF will formally protest the attack at the next joint
meeting of the Coordinating Committees on the Cessation of
Hostilities (CCCH) but nonetheless consider the cease-fire
still in effect. The CCCH and representatives from at least
one cease-fire monitoring NGO along with the IMT will examine
the site of the attack. Privately, MILF officials told
poloff they “knew” that the MILF was “not the target” and
that the attack was away from “MILF areas.” GRP officials
close to the peace negotiations predicted to poloff that the
attack will not adversely affect GRP-MILF talks slated for
early February in Kuala Lumpur, claiming that the AFP
operation was coordinated with the MILF in advance.

Comment: MILF Not That Miffed

¶7. (C) The MILF has so far responded with restraint, similar
to its reaction after the November and January AFP attacks.
In those instances, the MILF mildly protested AFP attacks
against MILF elements or activities considered unsanctioned
or outside the command and control of the MILF’s Central
Committee, without allowing cooperation within the CCCH and
with the IMT to suffer. Public disapproval in MILF areas
appears surprisingly tempered so far, enabling this measured
MILF response. Even more encouraging, private statements by
MILF officials are supportive of goals to rid Mindanao of
suspected terrorists. All indications continue to point to a
resumption of talks in the next two weeks.



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