Third ‘high-value target’ also got away
MANILA, Philippines—As the principal targets of the botched Special Action Force (SAF) operation in Mamasapano, Maguindanao province, on Jan. 25, Zulkifli bin Hir, alias “Marwan,” and Basit Usman have become household names. But there was a third target who got away and his name was never mentioned before.
The Philippine National Police board of inquiry report on the Mamasapano debacle released on Friday said the third “high-value target” of “Oplan Exodus” was Amin Baco.
Like Marwan, Baco is reportedly a Malaysian bomb expert and a member of the Southeast Asian terrorist network Jemaah Islamiyah (JI) who is wanted for a string of bomb attacks in the region.
But unlike Marwan who was “killed on the spot,” Baco and Usman managed to escape from the SAF commandos who raided their riverside huts in Mamasapano early on Jan. 25.
Wanted by US, PH
Baco, who uses the alias Jihad, is wanted by the Philippine and US governments for various bombing and kidnapping cases.
He is reportedly one of the kidnappers of two Malaysian cousins Tun Wee Jie and Tun Wee Wei from Lahad Datu, Sabah, on Nov. 14, 2002.
He was also involved in the foiled kidnapping of Chinese trader Ting Ting Yeong in Iligan City on May 5, 2013, according to the board of inquiry report.
Baco is believed to have taken refuge with the al-Qaida-linked terrorist group Abu Sayyaf, training its members in explosives and helping them plot attacks.
Philippine intelligence officials say Baco stayed for years with Abu Sayyaf fighters in Jolo, but fled the area after a US-backed air strike targeting foreign militants killed several extremists in a mountain encampment in February 2012.
He was later monitored to have joined the Abu Sayyaf in nearby Basilan province and on the Zamboanga Peninsula, posing with armed Filipino militants in a picture taken with a cell phone that was later seized by government forces.
Marwan, the primary target of the SAF operation, was a Malaysian national and US-trained engineer who was believed to be a senior member of JI.
He was internationally and locally wanted on a string of bomb attacks, most notably the Bali bombings of Oct. 12, 2002, that killed 202 people and seriously injured 209 others.
He also used as aliases Ebs, Ibs, Musa, Ahmad and Nods while in hiding, the board of inquiry report said.
Basit Usman is the alias of Ahmad Batabol Usman, a Filipino bomb expert who now heads the Special Operations Group of the Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters (BIFF), a breakaway group of the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF).
He is involved in at least five bombings from April 2002 to January 2008 in General Santos City, Tacurong and Cotabato City, his “specific terrorism playgrounds,” according to the report.
His bomb attacks have killed 17 people and seriously injured 62 others, the report said.
The board said the three specialized in manufacturing and detonating improvised explosive devices by remote control such as ordinary cellular phones.
It said the bombs appeared to be crude since dilapidated and rusting mortar, artillery and recoilless rifle rounds were used as the main charge, but they were powerful enough to cause extensive injuries and great terror. With a report from Inquirer Research
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