August 9, 2000, Philippine Daily Inquirer, Bin Laden funds Abu Sayyaf through Muslim relief group, Pt.1, Christine Herrera,
August 9, 2000, Philippine Daily Inquirer, Pg. 1, Bin Laden Funds Abu Sayyaf Through Muslim Relief Group, by Christine Herrera,
A MUSLIM relief organization is a conduit for funds to the Abu Sayyaf from Saudi billionaire, Osama Bin Laden, the US Public Enemy No. 1, and his brother-in-law, Mohammad Jamal Khalifa.
This was confirmed to the INQUIRER in Davao City by a former member of the original Abu Sayyaf group, who uses the nom de guerre Abu Anzar.
Anzar's disclosure is supported by police and military intelligence reports that state Bin Laden and Khalifa in 1992 set up the International Islamic Relief Organization Inc. (IIRO) with offices in Makati and in several cities in Mindanao as a front organization for funding terrorist activities.
The IIRO, according to the intelligence report, was working under the Muslim World League, an organization wholly financed by the Saudi Arabia government.
"The IIRO which claims to be a relief institution is being utilized by foreign extremists as a pipeline through which funding for the local extremists is being coursed," the intelligence report noted. Bin Laden has used his personal fortune to finance terrorist activities all over the world. US authorities had fingered Bin Laden as the mastermind of the bombing of the US embassies in Kenya and Tanzania in August 1998 which killed 257 persons and wounded more than 5,000.
Though Khalifa has denied involvement in Bin Laden's activities, he had admitted "very close ties in the past." The second of Khalifa's four wives is the sister of Bin Laden.
Through Khalifa, who lived in the country for nine years, a Stratfor intelligence report said that "Bin Laden's network is already deeply entrenched in the Philippines."
It was the MWL-IIRO that established the Al-Makdhum University in Zamboanga City which started accepting Islamic students in 1992, the intelligence report said.
According to the report, the IIRO also offers scholarship to qualified students who have the potential to be Islamic scholars. They then are tasked to indoctrinate other Muslims on terrorist tactics.
In an interview with the INQUIRER, Anzar said the IIRO was used by Bin Laden and Khalifa to distribute funds for the purchase of arms and other logistical requirements of the Abu Sayyaf in the guise of relief and livelihood projects for Muslim communities in Mindanao.
"Only 10 to 30 percent of the foreign funding goes to the legitimate relief and livelihood projects and the rest go to terrorist operations," Anzar added.
"The IIRO was behind the construction of mosques, school buildings and other livelihood projects in areas penetrated, highly influenced and controlled by the Abu Sayyaf," Anzar said.
The IIRO provides a steady supply of clothing, canned goods, rice and other necessities to impoverished Muslim communities.
"Bin Laden and Khalifa saw that the Muslim people needed help but he wanted immediate results, which he could not expect from the MILF. So he founded and funded the Abu Sayyaf, the Muslims' terrorist arm," he explained
Al Haj Murad, MILF vice chair for military affairs, had confirmed to the INQUIRER two years ago that Bin Laden and Khalifa provided "help and assistance" to MILF cadres who volunteered in the 1980s to help the Taliban struggle against the Soviet-backed Afghanistan government.
The original Abu Sayyaf was headed by Aburajak Abubakr Janjalani and another faction was led by Galib Andang, aka Commander Robot, who broke away from the Moro National Liberation Front after the formation of the Southern Philippines Council for Peace and Development under former Moro National Liberation Front chief Nur Misuari.
Anzar said Bin Laden and Khalifa financed the urban warfare and terrorism training in Libya of their recruits to the Abu Sayyaf, including Janjalani and Edwin Angeles, the founding Abu Sayyaf vice commander and intelligence chief.
It was Angeles who recruited Anzar to the Abu Sayyaf. After undergoing advanced Islamic studies, Anzar became the group's liaison officer and Angeles' right-hand man.
When Angeles returned from Libya, he allegedly carried out the bombing of the Jolo Cathedral in Sulu in 1991.
Bin Laden and Khalifa also funded the three-month commando training course of the recruited Abu Sayyaf members in March 1993 in Patikul, Sulu, Anzar recounted. Khalifa served as one of the advisers of the Abu Sayyaf, the intelligence report noted, which was also confirmed by Anzar.
Records show the IIRO, a non-stock, non-profit organization, was registered with the Securities and Exchange Commission on Sept. 20, 1991 with Khalifa as president and chair of the board of trustees.
Based on the SEC documents obtained by the INQUIRER, the IIRO's primary objectives are:
* To provide humanitarian services which will develop and elevate the educational, social and health aspects among the communities in the Philippines.
* To assist victims of natural and man-made calamities in the Philippines by giving financial assistance and relief goods, clothing, etc.
* To own, acquire, purchase, lease, sell, convey, transfer and establish orphanage centers, mosques, machinery equipment.
* To accept donations and contributions from national and foreign sources.
* Other incidental purposes not mentioned above.
The IIRO is expected to exist for 50 years from and after the date of incorporation in 1991.
Anzar said it was the objective "other incidental purposes not mentioned above" that became the priority of Bin Laden and Khalifa's group.
Asked why Bin Laden and Khalifa were supporting the Moro terrorists, Anzar said: "Any Muslim community that the Philippine government wanted to control got help."
"Bin Laden and Khalifa knew the Muslim people are no match for the resources and logistics of the Philippine government. So they decided to pour in funds to help us through the IIRO. It's a legal bank-to-bank transaction and a legitimate relief organization but the bulk of the funds go to terrorist operations," Anzar said.
"Based on our doctrine that Bin Laden and Khalifa share, if you are a Muslim, you are obliged to help reach your goal-to establish an Islamic state-even by force," he stressed.
He explained that if the Muslim could not personally engage in combat, he or she could help through spiritual or material aspects.
"Spiritual help means we pray for the success of the operations and material is logistics," he said.
"In the case of Bin Laden and Khalifa, they are not combatants, so they give material support. Money. Lots of money," Anzar explained.
The money was used, he said, primarily to create chaos and embarrass the Manila government.
"See, if there are bombings, kidnappings and killings, there will be no peace and development. Local and foreign investors would not come to Mindanao. That's what we want. They should not invade our place. Mindanao is ours. How come other non-Muslim people reign here? We are the ones who are hungry; we are on the run; we have no livelihood," Anzar said.
"Bin Laden, Khalifa and other foreign Muslim terrorists share that so they help us turn away the invaders, including the government. We don't need the Philippine government here. We want our own Muslim government."
Bin Laden and Khalifa generously provided the funds for the terrorist acts of the Abu Sayyaf and they had no complaints, he said.
"Whether the money was used for bombings, kidnappings, Bin Laden and Khalifa did not complain, for as long as the objective-to fight and prevail upon the government-was reached," he said.
Support for Robot
He said the original Abu Sayyaf members supported Commander Robot's kidnapping of 31 mostly foreign nationals because it sent a strong message to the Philippine government and the foreign governments "not to mess with Muslim people in Mindanao."
From the multimillion-peso ransom raised by the Robot gang, "Bin Laden and Khalifa do not get a single centavo. They even give more," Anzar said.
This act of generosity, Anzar said, has lured more Muslims to join the Abu Sayyaf.
"There's plenty of money. For instance, we have a weeklong operation, we leave money to our families more than enough to spend for the month," he said. "For example, our families spend about P1,000 a week, we would be given five times that amount."
Anzar said this allowed the Abu Sayyaf to sustain their operations. The more they engaged in terrorism, the more financial support poured in from Bin Laden and Khalifa.
Anzar said even before Angeles was nabbed by the government (although the Abu Sayyaf believed he surrendered and turned against his comrades), Bin Laden and Khalifa started organizing another group-that of Commander Robot.
"So there would be no setback in terrorist operations," he said.
The financial support from Bin Laden continued even after Khalifa was arrested in Sta. Rita, California, on Dec. 26, 1994 and was detained by the US Federal Bureau of Investigation for using fake travel papers, he said.
He said Angeles was killed in January 1999, a month after Janjalani was killed by government troops on Dec. 18, 1998.
"Janjalani's relatives believed it was Angeles who had Janjalani killed so he was also killed by the relatives," he said.
"The (original) group broke up. We had contacts with Commander Robot. We are still armed up to now. But we'd rather do our own thing. Preferably lie low, now that the government is going after the original members," he said.
Anzar said he surfaced to tell his story to the INQUIRER that the Abu Sayyaf are proud to be called terrorists. (Tomorrow, Khalifa's own terrorist network. And who's the Cabinet official listed as a board member of the IIRO foundation?)
August 10, 2000, Philippine Daily Inquirer, page A1, Gemma linked to group funding Sayyaf, MILF, by Christine Herrera, [cont. page A16]
August 10, 2000, Philippine Daily Inquirer, page A1, Gemma: 'How desperate can they get',
August 10, 2000, PDI, Gemma linked to Bin Laden group funding Sayyaf, MILF By Christine Herrera
(Last of two parts)
TOURISM Secretary Gemma Cruz-Araneta has been linked to a Muslim relief organization allegedly being used by accused international terrorists Osama bin Laden and his brother-in-law Mohammad Jamal Khalifa as a front to finance the operations of the Abu Sayyaf and the Moro Islamic Liberation Front.
The information was disclosed to the INQUIRER by a former member of the original Abu Sayyaf group, who uses the nom de guerre Abu Anzar.
Anzar was the Abu Sayyaf liaison officer and right-hand man of the late Edwin Angeles, one of the Abu Sayyaf founders who was its vice commander and chief intelligence officer.
Araneta served as board member and treasurer of the International Islamic Relief Organization (IIRO) which works under the Muslim World League.
Based on IIRO documents at the Securities and Exchange Commission, Khalifa and Araneta were among the five incorporators who signed the documents of registration. Araneta appears to be the only non-Muslim in the group. Besides Khalifa, the others are Zakaria M. Shikh, a Jordanian; Abubakar Sharifada, a Filipino and Alice Yabo, aka Jameelah, a Filipino and believed to be Khalifa's wife.
The IIRO was registered with the SEC on Sept. 20, 1991. It has a life of 50 years from the date of incorporation. To date, the SEC documents on IIRO lists Araneta as the treasurer.
Khalifa was IIRO's president and chair of the board of trustees. Bin Laden was its main financier, according to police and military intelligence reports.
As treasurer, Araneta was tasked ''to act as such until her successor is duly elected and qualified in accordance with the by-laws, and that as such, she has been authorized to receive for and in the name and for the benefit of the association, all contributions or donations paid or given by the members,'' according to the reports.
Araneta used her maiden name, Gemma Cruz, in the document. But Araneta's middle initial in the document is C., thus, Gemma C. Cruz, instead of G. for Guerrero, which is her mother's surname.
Anzar attributed the mistake to a mere typographical error.
''The error was typographical. She cannot deny that she and Khalifa were together when they went to Mindanao in October 1993 and again in June 1994,'' Anzar told the INQUIRER in an interview.
''I should know. I acted as their security escort,'' he said.
Documents obtained by the INQUIRER confirmed that Khalifa was indeed in the country during the dates mentioned by Aznar.
Khalifa was issued passport numbers 024632 on Oct. 16, 1992 in Manila and AZ215927 on Jan. 29, 1994 in Jeddah, the intelligence reports noted.
According to Anzar, he fetched Araneta and Khalifa from General Santos City and brought them to visit the mosques, buildings and schools in Sirawan in Toril District in Davao City in October 1993. The projects were funded by the IIRO.
''It's impossible for Gemma Cruz not to know because the Muslim communities know,'' Anzar said. ''To the Muslim communities, Khalifa is not only philanthropist but an international terrorist. So Muslims have high regard for him.''
Khalifa, without naming Araneta, introduced her to the communities as the one who managed the IIRO's finances, Anzar said.
In his first encounter with Araneta, Angeles introduced her to Anzar as the former Miss Philippines.
''I didn't ask the name because it was a no-no in our group. You just wait to be told, otherwise you would be mistaken as a government deep penetration agent,'' Anzar said.
She described Araneta as pretty, chinky-eyed and ''very tall.''
When showed recent photos of several former Miss Philippines, Anzar examined the photos and pointed to Araneta's photo as the woman he saw in 1993 and 1994 with Khalifa.
''This is Gemma Cruz. I could never forget her eyebrows,'' he said. ''But she was prettier and younger in 1993 and 1994. She even had long hair.''
But in their second meeting in Zamboanga City in early June 1994, Anzar said, Angeles introduced her to him as Gemma Cruz.
He said he was surprised to see Araneta wearing a Muslim dress that prompted him to ask Angeles whether she was a Muslim.
''Bro (brother), yang babaeng yan, may balak mag-balik-Islam. Yan ang dating Miss Philippines, si Gemma Cruz,'' Anzar quoted Angeles as having told him.
He explained that the ''balik-Islam'' was the term used when someone was converting to Islam.
''The visit was Bin Laden's and Khalifa's way of telling the Muslim communities highly influenced and penetrated by the Abu Sayyaf that the people got help because they support the cause of the Abu Sayyaf,'' Anzar said.
''They do the same in MILF-controlled areas,'' he added.
Though it set up livelihood projects, built mosques and schools and provided for the basic needs of impoverished Muslim communities, the IIRO also provided funds for the purchase of arms and other logistical requirements of the Abu Sayyaf, Anzar said.
In fact, he said, only 10 to 30 percent of the funds coursed through the IIRO went to the charity projects. ''The bulk of the fund goes to terrorist operations of the Abu Sayyaf and the MILF. We have not lost contact with the MILF. We even coordinate with them. So we know they also get financial support from the IIRO.''
He said the Muslim communities were aware that Khalifa and Bin Laden were ''international terrorists and the projects were part of their agenda to win the hearts and minds of the Muslims.''
Wali Khan Amin Shah, one of the conspirators convicted in 1996 for his role in a plot to blow up US planes, told authorities that a Muslim charity run by Khalifa and backed by Bin Laden had financed the plot, according to US and Philippine intelligence reports.
Now believed to be hiding out in Afghanistan, Bin Laden, the youngest son of a Saudi construction magnate, is wanted by the United States for allegedly masterminding the attacks on the US embassies in Kenya and Tanzania in 1998 which killed 224 people.
Khalifa was arrested in Sta. Rita, California, on Dec. 26, 1994 and was detained by the Federal Bureau of Investigation for using fake travel papers. His alleged ties to terrorist activities became evident on Jan. 6, 1995 when the police raided an apartment in Manila shared by Ramzi Yousef and Abdul Hakim Murad, both of whom were later convicted of the 1993 World Trade Center bombing in New York.
Khalifa was a frequent visitor here where he owned a rattan furniture factory on top of working with the IIRO.
"WOW, of course not. Some people are really after my position. They wanted to get rid of me. How desperate can they get."
Thus, the reaction of Tourism Secretary Gemma Cruz-Araneta to reports linking her to the international terrorists, the Abu Sayyaf and the Moro Islamic Liberation Front.
Although Araneta admitted it crossed her mind that she would be linked to the terrorists and the Muslim rebels after President Estrada disclosed during a Cabinet meeting the other day that over 50 government officials were suspected of aiding Muslim rebels, she vehemently denied she had anything to do with it.
In an interview with the INQUIRER over the phone, Araneta said she knew neither Saudi billionaire Osama Bin Laden nor his brother-in-law Mohammad Jamal Khalifa.
Neither was she involved in the operations, legitimate or not, of the International Islamic Relief Organization Inc., she said.
Araneta said she had no reason to go to Mindanao in the 1990s. In fact, the last time she went to Zamboanga City was in 1968, she said.
She went back to Mindanao only when she became tourism secretary because of the government's tourism projects, she said.
Araneta said she came back to the Philippines in 1990 but that she regularly went to Mexico every two months.
If there was anything that could link her to Muslims, she said, it was merely "sartorial." "It's because I wear malong," she said.
Besides, she said, she was sympathetic to "our Muslim brothers and sisters and why would they fault me on that."
Araneta said the former Abu Sayyaf member (Anzar) who allegedly saw her in Davao and Zamboanga cities, could have just pointed to her being a former Miss Philippines because she was tall.
"Baka naman si Margie Moran yan," she said.
Told that Anzar insisted he could not forget her face, particularly her eyebrows, Araneta laughed out loud. "Kilala ko na yan pag kilay ko na ang pinag-uusapan," she said.
But Araneta refused to name names as to who was behind what she described as a "demolition job" against her.
"I have a short list of people who wanted my position so desperately. They make me appear incompetent and corrupt but none has stuck so far," she stressed.
"It looks so coincidental. See, I really expected that they would link me to Muslim rebels. It really crossed my mind after hearing the President, that they would demolish me and use it as an issue against me. Na ako yung isa sa 50 officials (aiding Moro rebels)," Araneta said.
"If they would give me that notoriety, fine with me. It would not stick anyway because it's not true," she said.
July 31, 2000, Speech, Sen. Aquilino Pimentel, Philippine Senate, Treasonous Handling of the Abu Sayyaf,
August 3, 2000, Inquirer, Abu Sayyaf ransom now totals P173M, says solon,
August 8, 2000, ABS-CBN, Abu Sayyaf gained P245m from kidnapping,
August 9, 2000, Sydney Morning Herald, Bin Laden 'funding rebels via charity',
August 9, 2000, The Straits Times, $9.7m paid to Jolo rebels, [Text]
August 10, 2000, The Straits Times,"Bad rebels" turn rich, [Text]
August 10, 2000, The Straits Times,Osama gave funds to Abu Sayyaf: Manila, [Text]
August 10, 2000, Philippine Daily Inquirer, Gov't offers P5M for Salamat's head, by Carlito Pablo,
August 10, 2000, Philippine Daily Inquirer, Legislator says another anti-Estrada group formed, Martin Marfil, Donna Cueto,
August 10, 2000, Philippine Daily Inquirer, Source says some groups took cuts on P9-M payoff, by Donna S. Cueto,