Sunday, March 04, 2007

Cloak and Dagger

The Jamestown Foundation describes the process through which the jihad in Indonesia and the Philippines coordinate by following the actual travels of JI's Abdullah Sunata. Sunta was a middle level Jihadi ostensibly recruited as a liason man. He traveled to the Philippines on the orders of his cell over a commercial ferry route that had ironically been created by Malaysia and the Philippines to foster goodwill and trade between them. His initial trip came after the Bali bombing made Indonesia too hot for two JI ringleaders, Dulmatin and Umar Patek. Both hit on the idea of hiding out in Mindanao -- and perhaps training and recruiting some personnel there into the bargain. To help things along, they needed the services of a trusted man, Abdullah Sunata, who had to be instructed on how to cross borders.

Dulmatin and Umar informed Sunata that they were planning to go to Mindanao—an island in the Philippines that acts as a staging ground for ASG—to hide from Indonesian authorities and that they wanted to solicit Sunata's assistance in convincing or persuading Arnold, alias Arham, a Darul Islam member who had been working closely with JI, to serve as their guide

Sunata learned that the easiest way to get to the Mindanao was not by any cloak and dagger method, but by the simple expedient of taking a ferry from Malaysia to the Philippines. He was taken from Jakarata to Tawau in Malaysia. Then from Tawau, a small town in Malaysia, the Jihadi went to tiny port of Bongao in Tawi-tawi, the Philippines. It was legal border crossing in the least lightly defended of borders. "In an interview in 2006, Sunata said he considered the route via Bongao as the safest and most convenient for undocumented foreigners who wanted to go to Mindanao. He noted that there were only a few patrol boats along the way and there were no immigration authorities at the different ports of destination. Likewise, there are many islets scattered across the sea where crews of small boats carrying illegal aliens to Tawi-Tawi from Sabah and vise-versa can hide the passengers if patrol boats suddenly appear along the route."

Ironically, this particular infiltration route was opened by none other than Philippine President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo who hailed the ferry as part a new chapter in the economic development of the area. It will be the first of many new links between Malaysia and Southern Mindanao, all of which will can be potential routes across which the Jihad can coordinate between Indonesia, Malaysia and the Philippines.

A new sea route that will directly link Mindanao to Sabah, Malaysia was opened recently amidst renewed optimism in the Brunei-Indonesia-Malaysia-the Philippines-East ASEAN Growth Area (BIMP-EAGA), the Mindanao Economic Development Council (MEDCo) announced. ...

In her state visit to Malaysia last month, President Arroyo met with Malaysian Prime Minister Mahathir Mohammad and they agreed to fully support the revival of BIMP-EAGA consistent with the ASEAN initiative to link more closely its less developed regions with more economically progressive areas of ASEAN.

To achieve such goal, both leaders agreed to strengthen the transportation linkages in these areas. They also discussed the resumption of direct flights from Kota Kinabalu to Davao as well as improvement of port facilities in Zamboanga to support existing ferry services between Zamboanga and Sandakan.

Money for the Sunata's passage was provided by a mysterious Arab benefactor who met the jihadi in restaurants before stuffing his pockets with money.  In this case "the Arab was a personal contact and friend of Faiz [a Sunata contact], whom Faiz had met while he was in Saudi Arabia taking Arabic studies." The main course was the money.

They set up a meeting at Hadramut Restaurant in Jakarta. Their first meeting did not last long as they could hardly understand each other. After exchanging pleasantries, Mohammad handed him 50 million rupiah (a little more than US$5,000) after which they left the restaurant one after the other. ... In June of that same year, another cash donation, amounting to 60 million rupiah (almost US$6,500) was delivered to Sunata in the same fashion as the first—at the same restaurant in Jakarta by Abu Mohammad.

Upon reaching Cotabato, in Central Mindanao, Sunata was received as the personal house guest of a commander of a Moro group which was peace partner of the Philippine government. Sunata stayed with "a local Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) leader whom he knew as Abu Badrin (Badruddin). Patek introduced Badrin to Sunata as his long time friend. According to Sunata, he stayed in the home of Abu Badrin while he was in Pawas." But apparently Umar Patek did not tell Sunata the whole story because when Sunata arrived, there were already other Indonesians present in the camp, with whom he did not -- or was not allowed to communicate with.


The Jamestown Foundation article provides a snapshot into how an infiltration is actually performed. It probably happens dozens of times a month over small, unnoticed border crossings. But even if passport controls were introduced on ferries, a man like Sunata could no doubt have been transported by a fast, motorized outrigger across the sea frontier with little opposition from the authorities. The pirates and smugglers of the area know how to thread their way across the shoal water and coral reefs, immune from pursuit by deeper draft naval vessels. The handouts at restaurants from an "Arab benefactor" one met in schooldays who is mysteriously always around for dinners in Jakarta recalls the stories I heard about the cash disbursements being made backstage at performances by visiting Russian cultural troupes to members of the Philippine Communist Party during the 1980s. It is money given by a handler to an agent under thin cover. The Third World Left was always going on about their nationalism but never objected to being paid agents of the KGB. Guess it isn't wrong to sell out their country, for so long as the buyers were from China, North Korea and the Soviet Union. This low-tech method of funding agent networks is still apparently being used by persons from the Middle East. If you think about it, this is a case of the foreign subversion of another country. But of course, the press will hardly see it that way. There can never be "foreign subversion" in the Philippines simply because the masterminds are merely (said to be) from Saudi Arabia. No Americans involved, so no foul. After all you always hear about America invading Iraq, but you'll never hear about the invasion from Iran even though the press describes it every single day. And so it goes.


Blogger buck smith said...

"No Americans involved, so no foul."

Wretchard, that's a good joke! So true!

3/04/2007 07:41:00 PM  
Blogger 3Case said...

I'm having a hard time understanding how Junata is "midlevel".

3/04/2007 08:11:00 PM  

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