The Blog

Abu Sayyaf Leader Confirmed Dead

11:51 AM, Jan 22, 2007 • By MICHAEL GOLDFARB
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This weekend, Reuters reported that U.S. forensic tests had confirmed that a decomposing body found on the Philippine Island of Jolo was that of Khaddafy Janjalani, the military leader of Abu Sayyaf. That group had claimed responsibility for the worst terror attack in Philippine history, an attack on a ferry in Manila that claimed more than 100 lives. But the group also targeted Americans.

In the summer of 2001, Abu Sayyaf abducted 20 civilians from a resort on Palawan Island in the southern Philippines, among them Martin and Gracia Burnham, from Kansas City, who were both working as missionaries, and Guillermo Sobrero, from California. Within weeks of the kidnapping, the decapitated body of Guillermo Sobrero was found near an Aby Sayyaf camp. Martin Burnham was killed a year later during a rescue attempt that resulted in the release of his wife.

The abduction of American citizens made the destruction of Abu Sayyaf a priority for the American government, but it also had an effect in Saddam's Iraq. In 2006, Stephen Hayes reported on the existence of numerous documents connecting Saddam's intelligence services with the Philippine terrorist group. Those documents included this correspondence from the Iraqi ambassador to the Philippines, Salah Samarmad, to his superiors in Iraq:

"The kidnappers were formerly (from the previous year) receiving money and purchasing combat weapons. From now on we (IIS) are not giving them this opportunity and are not on speaking terms with them."

It seems clear that the Saddam regime was funding and arming Abu Sayyaf, though that support also seems to have ceased once the group became a target of the American government. Still, there are more questions than answers about the relationship between the two, and Hayes does a pretty thorough job of asking those questions in his piece, which can be read here.