April 22, 2006 at 8:23 pm Leave a comment

Saturday, April 22, 2006

Reports coming from the recent counter terrorism summit held in Mactan, Cebu warn, that, a new wave of organized rebuilt and armed with a new crop of cadre’s Jemaah Islamiah is ready to strike anew.

Australia, did issue a warning for Indonesia last week- While not clearly indicating where- they gave a date of April 20th onwards- of new a plot for new attacks somewhere in Indonesia.

The DFAT (Dept. Foreign Affairs and Trade) issued a alert calling on Aussies; living in Indonesia to” lie low” for those who already were in that country.
While warning tourists of a new possible plot, that had been uncovered by the AISO, in the wake of sweeps and arrests that foiled attacks in Sydney.

“A noted regional security analyst said here yesterday the regional Jemaah Islamiyah (JI) terror network has 100 foreign militants in Mindanao who have trained 400 to 500 fighters for new attacks.” – the Philippine Star reported further – ” Dr. Rohan Gunaratna, head of the Singapore-based International Center for Political Violence and Terrorism Research, told reporters on the sidelines of a three-day international experts’ conference on counterterrorism here that nearly 100 JI militants were being given refuge by rogue guerrilla leaders of the Moro Islamic Liberation Front.”

Overall the MILF has rejected extremism, and has repeatedly said. They want to see an end to groups engaged in these kinds of terror acts be stopped; and are cooperating by and large to see “outlaws” face justice.

Overall, the Cebu summit versus terrorism got a few “footnotes” of coverage on the news locally;, print coverage was better though than Broadcast most TV Stations seem perplexed of late covering anything outside Politics,

So for them it is a focus of covering the Cha-Cha or alleged plots and reports and claims of new plots to destabilize the country rather than focus attention on an “old topic” it is a dilemma for many in the industry who focus on this topic as conflicts abound in Newsroom’s with personal bias high against the topic .

I remember one time; when I too felt that way – then- six years ago- it all changed one day- it was on Dec 30th of 2000 – I had just gone to work to check my email when the Desk editor on Duty asked if i could hop into a crew cab and help out as a something had gone wrong with a LRT train at the Blumentritt station.

Earlier Robert Tan, another reporter, had gone out to Makati – a fire had been reported on a bus – and while I was in the crew cab on the way to the story a third team was being rushed to Plaza Ferguson in front of the US Embassy in Ermita.

Something had exploded,,, at three locations… as well as on a Bus,

When I reached the Bumentritt LRT station – we saw pandemonium; people screaming – people running down the steps carrying victims. The steps were slippery and sticky – blood and body parts were everywhere,

A series of explosions in four places at one time had rocked Metro Manila, the first thing that came to mind, was domestic politic s- then almost ominously- I looked at a local Police detachment commander talking to General Avelino Razon – the words the man said echoed in my head for a while “ This isn’t local Sir…Tthis is like a middle east bombing…look at the blast – it cut – this is not something Filipinos rebels do look at the civilians, Sir, …”.The Police detachment officer who had been a PNP UN peacekeeper in Lebanon and elsewhere in the middle east – He knew in an instant what many at the immediate time choose to ignore, that a new wave International terrorism had hit Manila.

Everyone was skeptical; Most of our news coverage had been focused on the Impeachment allegations of that time – and – we like everyone else were looking at a possible coup plot or other type of destabilization at the time.

Even later that night at the Chinese General Hospital when the President came to visit the injured victims – another officer – a PSG close in security officer I had known for years told me, in almost a whisper one word “Terrorists…”I looked at him – my face showing disbelief; When I asked “who”His reply hit me like a lightning bolt-

“Al Qaeda… from Indonesia”

He said it – I couldn’t believe it at first- but the cold stare in eyes and years of knowing him one look said it was what he believed to be true. What many People then did not understand that at around that time Former President Estrada had ordered his forces to move into MILF camps in Mindanao in 1999 for a offensive – what they uncovered was a large number of Foreign fighters; many of whom were from Indonesia and other from as far off as Pakistan and the Arab World. Piles of passports and documents had been seized in several camps.

The MILF; at that time had welcomed the foreigners into the camps for simple logistics and as volunteers who I was later told by senior MILF people “Abused the hospitality of the MILF and established hard-line sects within the group.” The Military of the Philippines has a very different view of that period – but since both parties are now in peace talks – in the spirit of reconciliation I’ll leave it there.

Now; back to that Rizal Day, after doing a bunch of reports on air for all of ABS-CBN’s channels- before being relieved by more senior correspondent Doris Bigornia , for a special edition of TV patrol as night fell, I was happy to see Doris, she had money for dinner! We had been going at it since morning – by then we were tired and most of our energy was spent.

Most of us in Media on that night on December 30th, 2000 –- remember this was before 9-11 – had really very little knowledge of the extent Al qeada had grown; although many knew it did have ties to the Abu Sayyaf this was still unclear then.

Later on that night I went back to the office we were told of calls by a man claiming to be from the” International Islamic Movement”, claiming responsibility in broken English.

It was only then – I noticed people staring at me- I hadn’t had a chance to change yet- my pants, shoes, shirt, was stained with blood. We had been first on the scene and had helped EMS teams with some of the victims. I also remember that there was flesh and body parts everywhere.

When I went home – I couldn’t go to sleeps – Always in my mind is the picture of Baby Bottle; its nipple bit off- blood around the rim. I can understand the reasons behind these kind of attacks; but when ever one see’s the effects it never really leaves you.

I sat down and remembered the wounded- the words they spoke those children asking for parents some we knew were dead; killed in the blasts. 22 in all died that day a few hundred more were injured.

In the weeks, months, and years, that followed there were more bombings and attacks – a bus her e- a place there, other parts of the country as well; always the scene was the same – people frantic. The worst was the Super Ferry; a couple of years back I didn’t go to the scene at the time – but later went to the Ship when it had been raised.

The faces of terror’s victims always looks the same; Also the sight of people like me always at the scene- reporting ,looking, seeing first hand the death and dying the people after a while it becomes another story- the more it happens the less it grabs the headlines. I wonder if the People who do this realize that, that people while fearful seem less and less shocked by the carnage.

A report I posted further down said last year was the worst; the number of attacks across the globe setting a new level with 10,000 attacks overall . Yet there is less and less focus of coverage on that kind of news. More showbiz- more sports- more politics.

So now with the new warnings and new threats it seems like before when people first warned of “new groups of extremists” in 1999.

At that time Asia was just hearing of the then new recruits, new groups old slogans and tactics it was largely ignored by media.

Now amidst fears by expressed by “experts”; fears of worse and more horrific attacks. A lot of which is ignored save for a few seconds on the news on TV stations and back pages of some newspapers.

So when warnings like this come out I think back to the warnings of before and worry about seeing history repeat itself as some seem in media seem to prefer to ignore this threat and clear present danger – for the latest showbiz scandal – or Political event or exercise they have vested interests in… I hope I’m wrong this time – and these warnings will now fall on deaf ears.


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