Tuesday, April 22, 2008

Out of Context, Part 2

First, we continue reviewing from Part 1 the Chairman's Report Oversight and Investigations Subcommittee of the House International Relations Committee, subtitled The Oklahoma City Bombing: Was There A Foreign Connection?

Terry Nichols in the Philippines

Terry Nichols began traveling to the Philippines in August 1990. He traveled to Cebu City with Shelton Paradise Tours, a business run by Tom Shelton and his son, Earl, who were allegedly involved in several disreputable ventures. Shelton Paradise Tours touted itself as a "mail order bride business," but apparently was also a prostitution ring. Shelton ran ads in fringe publications in the United States targeted at men who wanted to travel to the Philippines to find women for pleasure or marriage. He also ran ads in the Cebu City daily newspaper for young women who wanted to escape a life of poverty by becoming mail order brides. His Cebu City ad was answered by a young woman named Flordaliza "Lisa" Torres, who later brought her sister, Marife, into the business.

Marife met Terry Nichols on his first trip to the Philippines in August 1990 and the couple married in November of the same year. When Marife joined him in the United States a short time later, she was pregnant with another man's child. When interviewing Marife’s friends and family in the Philippines, the Oversight and Investigations Subcommittee discovered that Nichols may have promised the Torres family land and U.S. citizenship, even though he lacked regular employment and had no means of support other than occasional odd jobs. Terry and his Filipina bride moved to his family's farm in Michigan, where her child was born, before eventually moving to Herington, Kansas.

Terry Nichols' Activities in the Philippines

On his first trip to Cebu with Shelton Paradise Tours, Terry Nichols was initially introduced to "tour guide" Daisy Gelaspi. They spent about four days together and, in a sworn signed statement to police and investigators, Gelaspi claimed that Nichols asked her if she knew anyone in the military or anyone else who could help him make a bomb. Additionally, on his final trip to the Philippines just months before the Oklahoma City bombing, Nichols had with him a bomb-making book entitled The Chemistry of Powder and Explosives. Nichols' interest in bomb making during his trips to the Philippines raises some doubt about whether he was genuinely there for a wife, or whether he was there to network with underground criminals and terrorists.

Terry Nichols' behavior prior to his last trip to the Philippines in November 1994 also raises questions. He left a sealed note for his ex-wife that instructed her to open it in case he did not return. She opened it almost immediately and found a letter from Nichols telling her where he had hidden $20,000 for her and their son. When asked directly about this by the Oversight and Investigations Subcommittee, his answers were not credible; Nichols suggested the $20,000 came from babysitting money. Nichols had also written a note to McVeigh saying "Your [sic] on your own, go for it." The Oversight and Investigations Subcommittee inquired into why Nichols would have feared for his life on his last trip to the Philippines as well as where he got $20,000. Our answers are speculative at best. The money could have come from his robbery of Arkansas gun dealer Roger Moore, but this could not be confirmed. Additionally, it has not been ascertained as to why Nichols feared for his life.

Nichols' skill as a terrorist seems to have grown while in the Philippines. Initially he was an unsuccessful bomb-maker. According to Michael Fortier's testimony, Nichols and McVeigh failed miserably when they tested an explosive device in the Arizona desert just six months before they bombed the Murrah building. After Nichols' final trip to the Philippines, he and McVeigh were fully capable of manufacturing the crude but deadly bomb that was used to bring down the Murrah federal building.

This connection to the Philippines is significant. An excerpt from Islamic Terrorism in the Philippines -- an Updated Perspective helps us understand why (see original for footnotes):

The Worldwide Islamic Jihad Arrives in the Philippines

During the 1980s, Hashim Salamat joined the Arab and non-Arab Muslim volunteers fighting in Afghanistan, where he first met 'Abdullah 'Azzam and Usama bin Ladin. During that same time period MILF [Moro Islamic Liberation Front] continued to manage a guerilla and terrorist campaign against the Philippine regime. Throughout the 1990s the MILF forged ties with the Philippine organization Abu Sayyaf and with bin Ladin's al-Qa'ida, using the latter's training camps in Afghanistan and advisors that were sent to the Philippines in order to train members of the Front. In terms of numbers, it is estimated that MILF is comprised of anywhere between 8,000 and 15,000 fighters, some of which are Afghan Alumni. 4

In 1991, another split occurred within MNLF [Moro National Liberation Front] when 'Abd al-Raziq Abu Bakr Janjalaani-an Afghan Veteran who opposed Miswaari's moderate stance-quit the Front and founded the Abu Sayyaf Group. The group is named after Janjalaani's alias during the war in Afghanistan - "Bearer of the Sword". The Abu Sayyaf Group (ASG) sought to create an independent religious Islamic state in the southern Philippines, and argued that this objective can only be obtained through the use of force. Since the 1990s, the organization has directed terrorist attacks against Christian institutions and leaders in addition to kidnappings and murders, especially of foreign nationals. ASG is considered the smallest yet most radical of the Islamic organizations operating in the Philippines, and its forces stand at approximately 200 Mujahideen, some of them Afghan Veterans and Afghan Alumni, andh an additional 2,000 supporters.5

Since its inception ASG has maintained strong links with other Afghan Alumni. The Group used their experiences in guerilla warfare and terror in order to intensify the struggle against the regime and to heighten its reputation among competing Islamic organizations. It also aided those Afghan Alumni that needed a base of operations to launch terrorist acts under the framework of the worldwide Islamic Jihad. The most famous example of these instances was the tie between ASG and Ramzi Yusuf, an Afghan Veteran of Iraqi origin who is considered the mastermind behind the first World Trade Center attack in New York on February 26, 1993. Yusuf, who met Janjalaani some time in the 1980s during the war in Afghanistan, used ASG's infrastructure in the Philippines in 1994 for an attempt to simultaneously bring down two American passenger airlines in the Far East using explosive devices hidden in the planes. He also planned to attack Pope John Paul II during his visit to the Philippines in the beginning of 1995. Yusuf's plans were never fulfilled, however, as a result of a fire that broke out in his hiding place, which led to the capture of an accomplice and the revelation of the plots. Yusuf escaped to Pakistan, where he was arrested in February 1995 and extradited to the United States.6

Usama bin Ladin intently followed the events taking place in the Philippines. Pakistani and Philippine intelligence sources believe that bin Ladin, who knew Janjalaani from Afghanistan, directed Jamaal Khalifah, another Afghan Veteran and bin Ladin's brother-in-law, to offer financial aid to Janjalaani in the summer of 1991 in order to expand his organization. According to these sources, bin Ladin later ordered Khalifah to convince Ramzi Yusuf and Wali Khan Amin Shah to go to the Philippines and train members of ASG. Yossef Bodansky and 'Abd al-Rahim 'Ali noted that bin Ladin even visited the Philippines in the winter of 1993 and introduced himself to the regime as a Saudi investor seeking to aid the Muslims in the south. As a result, he gained increased cooperation in achieving these goals. Later bin Ladin appointed Jamaal Khalifah as the man in charge of transferring the aid.7

It is safe to assume that bin Ladin opposed both the formal negotiations held in November 1993 between government representatives and Nur Miswaari, who agreed to abandon his demands to secede the Muslim south from the Philippines Republic, and the peace treaty signed between Miswaari and the Philippine government in September 1996, which resulted in Miswaari's appointment to governor of the south.8

As time passed, Janjalaani strengthened his ties with al-Qa'ida. In February 1998, he joined bin Ladin's Worldwide Islamic Front for Holy War against the Jews and the Crusaders. He was aided by the training camps of al-Qa'ida in Afghanistan and by the al-Qa'ida advisors sent to the Philippines in order to train his fighters. As such, Janjalaani held ties with Salamat's Islamic Front and continued to forge ties with radical Islamic leaders throughout the world who fought alongside him in Afghanistan.9


A Hotbed for the Recruitment and Perpetration of Terrorism

The United States has called Mindanao Island and the Sulu archipelago in the southern Philippines a sanctuary, training and recruiting ground for terrorist organizations. According to Navy Adm. William J. Fallon, chief of the US Pacific Command, the Philippines, along with Indonesia and Malaysia, has served as a center for the activities of terrorists and their supporters in Southeast Asia. He added that the governments of these countries are cooperating with Washington in the war against global terror. Fallon did not say what terrorist groups were operating in the southern Philippines, but Manila previously admitted that dozens of members of the Southeast Asian terror group JI, including Dulmatin-who is linked to the deadly 2002 Bali bombings-were hiding in Mindanao.24

Local military estimates placed the number of ASG terrorists operating in Mindanao at about 510 active members, with 30 JI extremists. Led by Al-Qadhafi Janjalaani, most of them are holding out in the dense jungles of Central Mindanao, offering refuge to JI leaders Umar Patek and Dulmatin who are both wanted for the Bali attacks.25 The most recent reports indicate that Dulmatin is living under ASG's protection in exchange for providing bomb-making expertise.26

In the middle of March 2006 local troops captured alleged ASG weapons courier Julkaram Hadjail in Jolo and in a separate incident security forces killed several militants on the island. Security forces also recovered in early March 2006 a cache of explosives and homemade bombs near a highway in Jolo's Indanan town where troops regularly pass.27

So, Congressman Rohrabacher addresses ties between the Oklahoma City bombing and a place now known as "A Hotbed for the Recruitment and Perpetration of Terrorism" -- a place now complete with someone who has a reputation for "providing bomb-making expertise."

Just like back in the 1990's, when the Philippines had someone else with a reputation for "providing bomb-making expertise."

From Cracking the Case: An Interview With Sibel Edmonds by Scott Horton, August 22, 2005:

SE: And the main media is treating it as if "here's one piece of information the 9/11 Commission didn't include." I had this press conference last summer and together with 25 national security experts. These sort of people from NSA, CIA, FBI. And we provided the public during this press conference with a list of witnesses that had provided direct information, direct information. Some had to do with finance of al-Qaeda. These are people from NSA, CIA, and FBI to the 9/11 Commission, and the 9/11 Commission omitted all of this information, even though some of this information had been established as fact. One of them had to do with certain informants in April 2001. This informant provided very specific information about the attacks. The other had to do with certain information the FBI had in July and August 2001, where blueprints and building composites of certain skyscrapers were being sent to certain Middle Eastern countries, and many more information was just omitted.

Information that just gets omitted....

Stay tuned for Part 3!

(Meanwhile, you can read what my esteemed cohort wrote about the Philippines last year: Islamic terrorism problem in Philippines by Nora, July 11, 2007.)

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