US Drones Kill Targets from Pakistan to the Philippines
May 24, 2012
Al Jazeera & Asia Times & Gold Star Daily News
A US strike on a compound has killed at least ten people in northwest tribal region near the Afghan border, officials said. US drone attacks in Pakistan have come under attack for causing a high number of civilian casualties. Meanwhile, the first US-supported drone airstrike in the Philippines reportedly killed 15 individuals in February.
Deaths in US Drone Attack in Pakistan
(May 24, 2012) -- A US drone strike on a compound has killed at least ten people in northwest Pakistan's tribal region near the Afghan border, officials said.
"The drone fired two missiles on a house in Hassokhel town," 25km east of Miranshah, the main town in North Waziristan, a security official said on Thursday, a day after a similar attack killed four people in the same region. North Waziristan is a stronghold of the Haqqani network ---Afghan fighters blamed for a series of spectacular attacks on Western targets in Kabul -- and Pakistani Taliban chief Hakimullah Mehsud.
Islamabad has been resisting US pressure to launch a sweeping offensive against fighters in the area.
Washington considers Pakistan's semi-autonomous tribal belt the main hub of Taliban and Al-Qaeda fighters plotting attacks on the West and in Afghanistan. The attack was likely to raise tensions in a standoff with Washington over NATO supply routes to Afghanistan.
The United States has been pushing Pakistan to re-open the supply routes in difficult talks that show no signs of a breakthrough anytime soon. Pakistan closed the routes in protest against last November's killing of 24 Pakistani soldiers in a NATO air attack along the Afghan border.
US frustrations with Pakistan deepened on Wednesday after a Pakistani tribal court sentenced a doctor accused of helping the CIA find Osama bin Laden to 33 years in jail on charges of treason.
US Drones Circle over the Philippines
Jacob Zenn / Asia Times
(February 29, 2012) -- A United States-supported airstrike that destroyed with causalities an Abu Sayyaf hideout on the remote island of Jolo in the southern Philippines represented the first known use of the unmanned aerial assault craft in the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) counter-insurgency operations against terrorism-linked rebel groups.
The drone attack early this month reportedly killed 15 Abu Sayyaf and Jemaah Islamiyah operatives, including three most-wanted terrorist leaders -- Zulkifli bin Hir (alias Marwan), Gumbahali Jumdail (alias Doc Abu), and Mumanda Ali (alias Muawayah) -- and raised the level of US-Philippine military cooperation.
Marwan was the most wanted foreign terrorist in the Philippines, with the US State Department offering a US$5 million reward for information leading to his capture.
A Malaysian national, he was formerly a member of the Indonesia-based JI's central command, known as the markaziyah, and a founder of the Kumpulan Mujahidin Malaysia, an organization comprised mostly of former Soviet-era Afghan mujahideen who advocated for the overthrow of then Malaysian prime minister Mahathir Mohammed's government and the creation of an Islamic State.
In 2002, Marwan fled from Malaysia to Indonesia, where he reportedly conspired in the October 12, 2002, bombings on the resort island of Bali with the help of his older brother, Rahmat, who reportedly provided him with radios and cash used in carrying out the attack.
In August 2003, Marwan fled to the southern Philippine island of Mindanao, where he received the protection of Abu Sayyaf and the rebel Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF). Since then, he was based in southern Mindanao training Abu Sayyaf members in explosives, according to news reports.
Muawayah was a Singaporean military officer of Indian descent who also allegedly participated in the 2002 Bali bombing and had a $50,000 reward for his arrest offered by the US. Like Umar Patek, the JI operative who was captured in Pakistan half a year before Osama Bin Laden's assassination, Marwan and Muawayah are known to have maintained contacts with Al Qaeda cells operating in Asia and the Middle East while they trained local fighters in the jungles of southern Mindanao.
Doc Abu, a member of Mindanao's Tausug ethnic group, was one of Abu Sayyaf's most senior figures and had outstanding warrants for his arrest for 21 counts of kidnapping, including in Sipadan, Malaysia in 2000 and at the Dos Palmas resort in Palawan, Philippines in 2001.
His alias, Doc Abu, was derived from the time he spent as a medic for the rebel Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF) until it signed a 1996 peace pact with the government. After 1996, he joined Abu Sayyaf and emerged as one of its commanders.
The trio's precise location was uncovered when local villagers reported their presence to the Philippine military. The villagers may have been part of a known AFP program in Mindanao where locals are hired to work undercover to track down Abu Sayyaf and JI militants.
Aware that Jumdail has previously portrayed himself as a doctor when hiding out in local villages, they traveled to the village where Doc Abu was staying and pretended to seek medical treatment. The villagers then left a sensor at his hideout that was used to pinpoint the coordinates for the aerial attack.
Tracking Doc Abu, Marwan, and Muawayah was also made possible by months of AFP intelligence gathering, which in a separate air strike on October 2011 killed Marwan's aide, Madarang Sali, and three other Abu Sayyaf fighters. Marwan and Muawayah managed to escape the earlier assault, which is believed to have been launched by a Filipino manned assault craft.
Help from Above
The aerial strike was significant not only because it killed three top JI and Abu Sayyaf leaders but also because it underscored the effectiveness of the AFP's adoption of drones in its battle against Mindanao-based terror groups.
The AFP has traditionally relied on ground operations against terror groups, exercises that retired Lt Gen Benjamin Dolorfino recently referred to as "counter-productive" because they "cause locals to have negative perceptions of the military".
As history has shown, ground operations carry the risk of ambush and massive displacement of civilian populations. Most recently, on October 18, 2011, 100 MILF fighters reinforced Abu Sayyaf operatives in a battle where 13 AFP special force troops were killed.
In contrast to previous years, where the AFP's counter-insurgency operations have often alienated local villagers, advocates of the drone strike on Doc Abu, Marwan, and Muawayah note that it was facilitated through the assistance and cooperation of local villagers.
The airstrike, which was reported to have been US-led and launched by a drone that tracked the sensor planted at the Abu Sayyaf hideout, has however raised political hackles in Manila.
One Philippine representative, Luz Ilagan, has called for the abrogation of the US Visiting Forces Agreement and an end to US military intervention in national affairs in the wake the attack. That agreement bans the US, the Philippines' former colonial ruler, from establishing permanent military bases in the country.
Ilagan has since called for a probe into what she referred to as the "extensive and intensive intrusion of the US military in AFP operations". She also said, "If these reports are true, then US troops are participating in and conducting operations beyond what is allowed in the Visiting Forces Agreement and directly transgressing our sovereignty. More importantly, their participation in these operations is a potential magnet for the Philippines' participation in a brewing US-instigated regional conflict."
Underscoring the still strong nationalist sentiment against US troops being stationed on Philippine soil, Ilagan's opposition to US involvement in the fight against Abu Sayyaf comes despite the fact that she is a former victim of the group's terror tactics. She was wounded in the November 2007 bombing of the National Assembly in Quezon City, which killed one of Ilagan's staff members, her driver and a fellow congressional representative.
The Philippines National Police claimed that Abu Sayyaf was responsible for the bombing, though that interpretation has since been contested.
Certain congressional representatives believe that the country's security forces exploit the Abu Sayyaf for their own purposes -- in this case to boost military ties with the US in a wider bid to counterbalance China -- at the expense of national sovereignty. Despite Ilagan's and other nationalist group protests, the US has already announced plans to increase its fleet of unmanned drones by 30% in the Philippines.
As in Somalia and other conflict zones, drones will reportedly be deployed to help the US and AFP locate kidnapping victims, such as Warren Rodwell, an Australian national who has been held by Abu Sayyaf since December 2011, thus extending the unmanned vehicle's use beyond targeted assassinations towards search and rescue-type missions.
Jacob Zenn is a lawyer and international security analyst based in Washington DC. He writes regularly on Central Asia, Southeast Asia and Nigeria and runs an open-source research, translation, and due diligence team through http://zopensource.net/. He can be reached at email@example.com.
Copyright 2012 Asia Times Online (Holdings) Ltd. All rights reserved.
US Drone Kills 15 in Philippines:
In These Wxciting Times, Be Wary
Eric San Juan / Gold Star Daily News
MINDANAO, The Philippines (March 17, 2012) -- THE UAV (unmanned aerial vehicle) or drone was first used in the US wars in Bosnia in 1995. After the balkanization of Yugoslavia, it was used in Southeast Asia, in the Philippines. Have we forgotten how the US drones monitored the attack by the Abu Sayyafs of our soldiers in Basilan as reported by several newspapers in Mindanao?
What about the successful simultaneous attacks by the drones of several camps of the MILF in central Mindanao, assisting our Armed Forces as told to us by the late defense secretary Angelo Reyes? Rep. Luz Ilagan has aired her concern over a possible hand of the US troops stationed in Mindanao in a recent airstrike in Mindanao. Her fear regarding the operation also worries us of Uncle Sam's meddling in our military's undertakings on the insurgency problems in Mindanao.
In his article US drones circle over the Philippines (Asia Times online, Feb. 29, 2012), Jacob Zenn cited that the first known drone strike in the archipelago occurred earlier in February where it reportedly killed 15 members of the Islamic, Al Qaeda-backed terrorist groups Abu Sayyaf and Jemaah Islamiyah, including three most-wanted terrorist leaders -- Zulkifli bin Hir (alias Marwan), Gumbahali Jumdail (alias Doc Abu), and Mumanda Ali (alias Muawayah).
The strike happened in Jolo. The use of the unmanned aerial vehicles or drones is not farfetched. It seems that the Obama administration has made them to become the Pentagon's weapon of choice.
Actually, a bill passed in by Congress paved the way for the use of surveillance drones in US skies. The FAA predicts that by 2020 there could be up to 30,000 drones in operation. Once signed by President Barack Obama, the FAA Reauthorization Act allows for the FAA to permit the use of drones and develop regulations for testing and licensing by 2015. (Source: Steve Watson, Infowars.com Feb. 8, 2012)
In fairness to our AFP, the operation was a huge success that has killed the suspected terrorists but the US troops' meddling is a big no-no. I may sound like a broken record, but when it comes to this administration's foreign policy and the country's relationship with Washington, our leaders should send a clear message that we can continue such alliance but we must be given what is due us in the process.
In the past months, we have heard too much rhetoric on how Uncle Sam is helping us, especially our AFP in its modernization program. But the nagging question here is, are we getting our money's worth in the acquisition of these so-called "modern" military hardware?
Methinks that we are being taken for a ride here and that we were fooled to believe that we are ready for combat, if such conflict will occur in the region. People running this country never learned from history. We were shortchanged several times in the past and we just keep on repeating history. In the end, we'll just be but a part of the collateral damage.
As I have written before, we have to be war y and always on the lookout that Uncle Sam's new defense policy will consists more of cLandestine operations. Translation- more "spy planes/drones" and more troops in rotational basis that we are unaware of, secretly staying in some "temporary bases."
This writer together with other nationalists call on our leaders, that once and for all we have to be clear where we stand in our alliance with Washington. We just cannot stand on the sideline and watch our people go to war not of our liking. Let this warning be our guide from Danny Schechter (blogger and filmmaker) that "A commitment to more special forces is a commitment to more imperial intervention, and specialized units operating above the law and beyond the law. It's more secrecy in government with a constant danger of abuse. It promises more secrecy and manipulation."
Are we going to allow such manipulation and deceit to continue from a long time ally? Wake up PNoy and Pinoys!
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