Friday, February 13, 2015

4 Syrians, one Yemeni hosted by BIFF, says security expert

From the Philippine Daily Inquirer (Feb 13): 4 Syrians, one Yemeni hosted by BIFF, says security expert

Four Syrians and one Yemeni have visited the Philippines on September 2014 following the pledge of allegiance of some local jihadists to ISIS, a security expert said on Friday.

“It is not only Marwan who have established friendship and solidarity with local jihadist movement. [Last year] there are four Syrians and one Yemeni who arrived in the country and was hosted by the BIFF (Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters),” Rodolfo “Boogie” Mendoza, a retired intelligence chief of the Philippine National Police, said over a phone interview.

Mendoza played a key role in uncovering the Bojinka plot in the ’90s which included a plan to assassinate Pope John Paul II. He interrogated Abdul Hakim Murad, one of the brains behind the plot that led to the arrest of his cohort Ramzi Yousef in Pakistan.

Although he could not give a definite period on how long the five foreign nationals stayed in the south, he said their stay coincided with the trainings conducted by members of the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) 105th Base Command, the BIFF and a faction of the Abu Sayyaf Group under Isnilon Hapilon. The training started mid-2014, Mendoza said. A video of one of the trainings was posted on the Facebook page of the MILF 105th where the name Usman was mentioned.

Mendoza said the five foreign nationals arrived in the country supposedly for the Bangsamoro Justice Movement (BJM).

“That is what is being used so that the connection cannot be traced to the local jihadist organizations,” Mendoza said.

The BJM is a rebel movement established in Malaysia on July 2014. Some of those who founded the BJM are Mohammad Ali Tambaco, former vice chair for political affairs of the BIFF; Basit Usman, operations commander of the BIFF, a bomb expert with links to Malaysian JI operative Zulkifli bin Hir, also known as “Marwan,” and Abdul Jan Pagao, reportedly the former political affairs officer of the BIFF.

While there is an MILF component with ties with terrorist groups, Mendoza said the mainstream MILF has nothing to do with it “but appears they are tolerating it.”

He reiterated that the MILF should be transparent for the sake of the peace process.

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