[EDITOR?S NOTE: With the confirmed death of Abu Sayyaf leader Khadaffy A. Janjalani, what is believed to be his last extended interview, conducted by Octavio A. Dinampo, a professor of Mindanao State University (MSU)-Sulu, on Feb. 27, 2006, somewhere in the hinterlands of Basilan, is being ?declassified,? as it were. It is part of some field research undertaken by the South-South Network (SSN) for Non-State Armed Group Engagement in preparation for a coming comprehensive book on Philippine armed groups. It was made available to the Philippine Daily Inquirer by SSN Regional Focal Point for Asia and occasional Inquirer contributor Soliman M. Santos Jr. It provides a leader?s insider view of the Abu Sayyaf, an insight into its origins, its nature, its thinking, its jihad (struggle), and even its prospects, relevant even after the recent deaths of Janjalani and other Abu Sayyaf leaders. The interview was conducted wholly in Tausug and translated into English by Dinampo himself, then slightly edited by Santos but was unexpurgated.]
OCTAVIO A. DINAMPO (OD): I am Octah Dinampo, teaching at MSU-Sulu and currently engaged by the South-South Network (SSN) to conduct a research on the theme ?The Abu Sayyaf -- Rebel, Bandit, or Terrorist??
Khadaffy A. Janjalani (KJ): Whew, that?s a big deal, indeed. Is it a government project?
OD: No, this is an NGO matter, they want to establish the truth about your organization.
KJ: That?s good if like that. Now, how can I be of service?
OD: Foremost, we would like to know direct from you about the Abu Sayyaf Group (ASG). From the very beginning as much as possible.
KJ: The late ustadz (scholar of certain status -- referring to his elder brother and ASG founder Abdurajak Abubakar Janjalani) was a man who desired nothing other than becoming religious and having peace in the homeland. Proof of this, his education dwelt not only on life mundane, but also on life spiritual, until he became a teacher in the madrasah (Muslim school). But the problem, the oppressive soldiers had committed so much abuses in Basilan then, that he was compelled to also take the cudgels of calling attention to these during khutbah (lecture), classroom instruction, and other assemblies.
Such activities earned him the ire of the military. The ulama (religious scholars) were worried until they decided to defuse the threat by sending him to study Arabic and Islamic studies abroad. Fortunately, even the religious sector of the MNLF (Moro National Liberation Front) helped to find a scholarship slot for him in Libya until he became a member of the MNLF, heading its da?wah (Islamic propagation) movement.
OD: You mean, he became a member of the MNLF only when he was already abroad in Libya?
KJ: Yes. The truth is, however, he?s one who did not like it that the oppressive government would fool the MNLF time and again, talking here and there, agreeing on so many things just to end in betrayal. This is one big reason why the late ustadz left the MNLF and established his own organization upon return to the Philippines.
OD: So when did he establish the ASG?
KJ: When he returned in mid-1989, he buckled down to work immediately on his da?wah activities and at the same time established al-Harakatul al-Islamiyyah (Islamic Movement) as a vehicle to be used once more for hulah (homeland), bangsa (nation) and agama (religion), i.e. an independent country, national identity and most of all Islam -- meaning, an Islamic state for the Bangsamoro (Moro nation).
OD: Why, what about the MNLF? I believe they have the same objectives.
KJ: The late emir (leader -- referring to Abdurajak) believed that since the OIC (Organization of the Islamic Conference) interfered with the Moro right to self-determination, independence was lost forever in favor of the so-called autonomy. Proof is, up to now, nothing came out of that autonomy option. Meaning, my elder brother was correct and justified in his stance.
OD: How come al-Harakatul al-Islamiyyah became ASG?
KJ: Abu Sayyaf was the nom de guerre of my late brother. He copied it from Abdul Rasul Sayyaf, an Afghan mujahideen (fighters for jihad) who became famous for his practice of beheading traitors to the Taliban?whether Muslim or Christian. Much later, we were infiltrated by government spies. Then, because our boys beheaded our enemies that deserve beheading, the Marines under General (Guillermo) Ruiz called us ASG --perhaps referring to us as the ?group of beheaders.?
OD: Why did you not contradict such a misnomer?
KJ: It is not important what we are known as or called, what matters is our intent or objective.
OD: Well, perhaps that?s what you think, but the world now knows you as a bunch of ?terrorists.?
KJ: Bandit, pirate, terrorist -- they are all the same for us.
OD: Are you admitting now that ASG is a terrorist organization?
KJ: Not what they mean. We are mujahideen, albeit a bit brutal since we don?t distinguish oppressive soldiers from its public or citizenry -- they are generally our enemies. And we cannot soften up or become friends even with Arabs (e.g. in the OIC) if they are in league with our enemies.
OD: Why, what?s so different with the groups of Jamal Khalifa or Ramzi Yousef (personalities linked to Osama bin Laden and al-Qaeda) that you befriended them?
KJ: Jamal Khalifa was a philanthropist who helped Moro and other mujahideen in this world. Our friendship with them is dictated by necessity, convenience and the need to help one another. They needed at that time volunteers for Afghanistan, while we need money to buy arms, ammunition and other necessities to fight the oppressive government. Ramzi Yousef came later through Khalifa. We reciprocated their assistance by providing them volunteers, to include our visit to Afghanistan.
OD: What assistance did they provide you?
KJ: They gave us P6 million, if I?m not mistaken.
OD: That means you bought your firearms here locally? From where and who facilitated?
KJ: Yes. There was no problem buying guns then due to the plentiful supply from either gun smugglers, Recom (Philippine National Police Regional Command) or Southcom (Armed Forces of the Philippines Southern Command), soldiers who badly need cash. The late Asmad and Ed facilitated the purchases.
OD: Who were these Asmad and Ed you mentioned?
KJ: Asmad Abdul was from Tawi-Tawi and a pioneering member. Then Edwin Angeles was your provincemate from Sulu. He joined us after our return from Afghanistan.
OD: Why, where was al-Harakatul al-Islamiyyah (ASG) established? Why were there pioneers from Sulu and Tawi-Tawi?
KJ: Initially, we sat down in Isabela, the three Janjalani brothers (Abdurajak, Hector and Khadaffy) with Wahab Akbar (Basilan governor). Then, after two weeks or so, we again sat down with Asmad, Tuan Awliya and the nephew of Sir Bruno (Juvenal Bruno).
OD: Is the view accurate that the ASG was a creation of the CIA (Central Intelligence Agency) or the AFP?
KJ: To repeat, our organization is al-Harakatul al-Islamiyyah, not ASG. If they refer to their own ASG, that may be true. But if they refer to al-Harakatul al-Islamiyyah, that?s a lie.
OD: Is it allowable for mujahideen to kidnap? On what basis?
KJ: Whether philosophically or religiously, it is allowed. There is basis for kidnappings. Philosophically, if it is allowed to kill the enemy, why not allow to just kidnap him? Religiously, no less than the Prophet of Islam who gave the order to kidnap or seize the caravan of Abu Suffian, isn?t it? So, what is the difference of kidnapping or seizure then and now?
OD: What you are talking about I suppose is kidnapping the enemy, not civilians or noncombatants?
KJ: The enemy is not to be distinguished as to whether they are armed or not. In fact, many of our casualties were our civilians, not mujahideen. Why is it allowed for the oppressive soldiers and prohibited for us?
OD: Is it true that al-Harakatul al-Islamiyyah was created in order to undermine the MNLF?
KJ: As I said before, if you are talking of al-Harakatul al-Islamiyyah, it is not true. As a matter of fact, we even wanted to serve as one of the pillars of the MNLF, thus explaining why so many former MNLF commanders were taken in by al-Harakatul al-Islamiyyah. If there is a slight gap, it is in the means of achieving the purpose -- for us, it?s independence; for the MNLF, it?s autonomy.
OD: Is it true you have links with the al-Qaeda of Osama bin Laden or Jemaah Islamiyah?
KJ: We don?t even know Bin Laden or any leader of JI, how can we have links? What?s true is that we have some JI field operatives with us who go with us anywhere. We actually don?t mind who they are provided; they are willing to be our helping hands and follow our way of doing things here, we cannot be choosy.
OD: So that confirms that there are many DPAs (deep penetration agents) infiltrating your rank and file?
KJ: In the recent past, yes. But almost all were gone now consequent to their action and deed. They thought live bullets recognize targets. The few who remain are anyway marked.
OD: How is your organization since you assumed leadership up to now?
KJ: I did not actually expect that I will be their emir. But when my brother (Abdurajak) passed away and Ka Hector was in jail, that compelled me to shoulder the burden. Fortunately, nothing changed, we are still steadfast in fulfilling the trust he left us.
OD: Why is there seemingly a decrease in the number of kidnappings since you assumed leadership?
KJ: There are many reasons but it should not be told here since it constitutes a military secret. For now, suffice it to say, we are still ever vigilant in fighting the enemy.
OD: How are your comrades-in-arms in Sulu?
KJ: I think you know how good and strong they are in Sulu. And it is customary for us to break up into several autonomous groupings for as long as it is agreed beforehand.
OD: Is there anything you can add to what was said already?
KJ: I believe it?s all said and we are still monitoring the events in Manila. (This was right after the Feb. 24 & 26 ?coup attempts,? where the military mainly had its attention.)
OD: Thank you so much for your time. What you?ve clarified would be very helpful.
KJ: Thank you too. We pray it will be put to good use, what we told thus far.