The Attack on the Philippine Mall
I'm told there's an impending break in the identity of the bombers who hit a Manila mall.
Update. Ok. Here it is. "A spokesperon from the group Rajah Solaiman said that the group was behind the explosion at Glorietta 2 in Makati City that killed nine people yesterday. In a text message that was sent to ABS CBN, a certain Sheik Oman said the group was responsible for the blast and that they have scattered bombs in various public places if one of their members Amad Santos is not released within the next 24 hours."
In the Fire Next Time, which I wrote in January of this year, I wrote:
One of the things I learned from conversations with Philippine cops, of which there will be more in my forthcoming article at Pajamas Media due out Wednesday, is the fear that the Islamic insurgency is going to pull off the Big One. The creation of the Rajah Solaiman Revolutionary Movement, which consists largely of Christian converts to Islam, augmented possibly by members of the Philippine Left, has given the al-Qaeda affiliated groups the ability to operate outside their traditional strongholds in Mindanao. The recent successes by security forces against the Abu Sayyaf are the cumulative results of painstaking capability building. And now, we see that the security forces are looking ahead -- though not with enthusiasm -- to the possibility of the Big One: US training RP cops, others against gas attacks.
That article in Pajamas Media has this further amplification:
Asked if higher headquarters and the political bigwigs in Manila understood the gravity of the situation he answered, "Why should they care? All they care about is the circuses that get them elected." Then he added ominiously, "They don’t think there’s a threat to Manila, but I tell you there is. There’s a supply of Muslim converts among overseas workers flowing back from Saudi Arabia. Filipinos working there are pressured to accept Islam. Sometimes they are even offered money. And as to threats the big one may be coming." To hear him tell it, the Rajah Soliman Revolutionary Movement, consisting largely of converts and which had Jemaah Islamiyah connections, were planning to explode a large bomb in Manila. "They were aiming for a one-ton bomb. We took down a safehouse in Fairview in Manila with 600 kilos of ammonium nitrate explosive in 2005. They were that close."
The Mindanao-based counterterrorism official echoed a conversation I had with a senior policeman in Manila. The metropolitan cop thought a spreading network of Islamist cells in Luzon and the Visayas meant that radical Islamic terrorists could now operate in traditionally Christian parts of the Philippines. "I’ll say one thing more. We’ve observed technical exchanges between the Communist New Peoples Army and the Islamist rebels."
I can't be a 100% sure whether the Rajah Soliman people were behind the mall blast in Manila, which I think, was of a size that might have done more damage had it been better tamped; it may be that the Rajah Soliman group merely wants to claim responsibility to obtain the release of their jailed member, but it's certainly a possibility. More information should be forthcoming as the investigation proceeds.
As it did in Thailand, the Muslim insurgency will eventually come to the capital city. The blasts came to Bangkok. Why should they not come to Manila? I know there will be those, especially in the Philippine Left who will absolutely refuse to believe the capital will be attacked by Islamic insurgents. It may even prove to be true that the Islamists bought the explosives from the corrupt Armed Forces of the Philippines or had confederates within them, just as the Taliban have in Pakistan. But it's the mastermind that counts.
If Rajah Soliman Group is behind the attacks, that would indicate that the Islamic insurgency in the Philippines has become qualitatively different. It means the existence of a strike force based on Christian converts, some recruited while working as contract workers in Saudi Arabia, and with links to the Communist New People's Army. Such a force could move essentially undetected on Luzon. These dangers have long been understood by Filipino cops but denial and an addiction to shambolic solutions has blinded the Philippine political leadership to them.
I have little confidence Manila can wake up in time. It's far more probable that they will continue to believe in whatever conspiracy theory suits their political book and jabber away until the next time. Because there will be a next time.