Military calls on MILF to share info on Sri Lankan abduction

By LEILA D. VICENTE, ABS-CBN News Zamboanga

Posted at Feb 18 2009 01:03 AM | Updated as of Feb 18 2009 09:03 AM

ZAMBOANGA CITY – The head of the joint military and police task force in Basilan has called on the leadership of the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) to coordinate with them first on information related to the abduction of a Sri Lankan national.

Commodore Alex Pama, Joint Task Force Trillium (JTFT), called on MILF to coordinate with them first if they have any information about abducted Sri Lankan national, Umar Jaleel.

The senior military officer’s statement came after MILF spokesperson Eid Kabalu said Abu Sayyaf Group (ASG) is behind the abduction of Jaleel.

Pama told ABS-CBN News Zamboanga that if indeed the MILF is sincere in talking peace with the government, this is the right time for them to help the military with the present crisis in Basilan.

Pama said it is best for the MILF to talk to them first instead of the members of the press.

He also offered that if the MILF has reservations to tell information to the military, the Ad Hoc Joint Action Group (AHJAG) is still existing where MILF officials can share their information.

The MILF however refused the call of the senior military official.

Kabalu, in a text message, said: “It’s our own effort and we don’t coordinate with them (the military).”

Military still validating ASG role
Pama, meanwhile, said that the participation of bandit ASG in the abduction can not yet be confirmed especially the allegation that the group of Puruji Indama was behind the abduction.

"We're still validating if indeed the group of ASG sub-commander Puriji Indama is holding (Jaleel). We can’t confirm yet (as of this time) if its ASG,” Pama said.

Earlier, Lamitan City police said the ASG could be behind the abduction of the Sri Lankan national.

The military said however that intelligence information indicate that the abductors of the Sri Lankan peace volunteer also forcibly took a civilian to serve as their guide.

Pama said this would indicate that the suspects are not familiar with the terrain of province which is impossible for a member of the bandit Abu Sayyaf Group.

JTFT has recently created to address the spate of kidnappings in Basilan province.

Religious leaders saddened
Religious leaders in the region, meanwhile, were saddened by the abduction of Jaleel.

They said the incident was un-Islamic - against the teachings of Islam.

Ustadz Shariff Julabbi of the Bishop-Ulama Conference said that if indeed members of ASG are behind the abduction of Jaleel, this group is no longer fighting for a cause. He said the abductors are already using their group to generate money and no longer fighting for an ideology.

The Philippine Institute for Peace Violence and Terrorism Research (PIPVTR), meanwhile, said it will no longer be surprised if indeed ASG members abducted or kidnapped a fellow Muslim.

Professor Rommel Banlaoi, PIPVTR executive director, said this is not the first time that the ASG abducted or kidnapped a Muslim brother.

In 2000, an American Muslim, Jeffrey Schilling was kidnapped by the bandit group in Sulu. And earlier last year, Professor Omar Taup was kidnapped in Tawi-tawi and Professor Octavio Dinampo in Sulu.

“If ASG is behind the abduction of [the] Sri Lanka peace activist, I think the ASG is sending a political message to international donor agencies considering that ASG is still holding the ICRC workers. ASG is not a spent force but a force to reckon with,” said Banlaoi.