Saturday, January 06, 2007


Two news items are suggestive of how security threats are managed in a country which is conscious of its image, but oblivious to the necessity of cleaning up its act to efficiently combat terrorism. First, this item from Reuters which describes a routine attack on ordinary Filipinos by Islamic militants. But its political significance lies in its possible relationship to threats against the 16 regional heads of state due in the Philippines to attend a summit.

Suspected Islamic militants set off a bomb near a fast-food restaurant in the southern Philippines on Friday wounding two people, police said. Officials said a crude bomb exploded near the restaurant in Cotabato City, one of the larger cities on the southern island of Mindanao, where the government is battling long-running Muslim and communist insurgencies. ... Police spokesman Samson Obatay said they suspected members of local Muslim terrorist group Abu Sayyaf and regional network Jemaah Islamiah could be behind the attack. "We have intercepted a report that they will carry out attacks in major cities in Mindanao, including our city,"

In its normally surrealistic way, the Philippine government acknowledges a security threat posed by terrorists to the summit and while simultaneously going on to deny it.

The bomb attack came as President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo was meeting with top defense and military officials in Manila's main military camp, ordering them to defeat all security threats facing the archipelago before she steps down in 2010. The Philippines has been on alert against possible militant attacks ahead of a gathering of 16 leaders from East Asia next week on the central island of Cebu, a month after the meetings were postponed, ostensibly due to a typhoon.

The British and Australian governments had warned militants were planning to attack the summit in December but the Philippine government has denied the meeting was canceled because of security concerns. The British, Australian and Canadian embassies in Manila still advise their citizens against traveling to Cebu but Manila has insisted there is no security threat.

What the Reuters story misses is picked up by the AFP. At least one terrorist is acknowledged to be stalking the forthcoming summit. And as you would expect, the terrorist was already in custody except a corrupt official released him. Now they are looking for him again.

The Philippines has launched a nationwide manhunt for an alleged Vietnamese-American terrorist who could pose a threat to Asian leaders during summits here next week. Justice Secretary Raul Gonzalez said police were attempting to find fugitive Vihn Nguyen Tan before the ASEAN and East Asia summits amid a warning from Canada of a possible terror attack during the meets.

"In view of the uncertainty as to his whereabouts, it may be assumed that he has not left the Philippines and therefore poses a threat to the forthcoming ASEAN summit," Gonzalez said.

Tan, 51, who is also known as Vo Van Duc, is the alleged leader of the Free Vietnam Revolutionary Group. He was arrested at a suburban house in the capital Manila in 2001 while allegedly assembling a bomb for use in attacking the Vietnamese embassy here.

Duc was serving a four-year sentence when in 2005 he was illegally freed by corrupt immigration officials who gave him a Filipino passport. Efforts since to locate him have been futile, and three immigration officials are now being investigated for the fiasco. Immigration officials "cannot state with clarity if Vo Van Duc really left the country," Gonzalez said.


That's the way counterterrorism happens in the far corners of the world. Of course if Vo Van Duc's name were Lance Corporal Daniel Smith, USMC, and the Left had set out to make an example of him, there might be more interest in keeping him in jail. Or at least more eyes watching him. But it's a sad fact that money, not diplomacy, is the key to all doors in many third world countries. If you have ever wondered why dead terrorists are often found with tens of thousands of US dollars on their persons: stop wondering. Money is omnipotent in certain places if you have it handy and know how to use it. A blind man can really get a license; and if it were only possible the lame would walk and the long-buried would rise from very their graves if only some corrupt official could find a way to do it.  For terrorists, a corrupt officialdom provides an ideal environment in which to operate. Consider how the Fathur Rahman al-Ghozi, the right hand man of JI leader Hambali, and a man who had killed 22 Filipinos, including children, besides attempting to destroy a clutch of Western embassies simply walked out of jail in July, 2003. The Asia Times has the details:

MANILA - How did Fathur Rohman al-Ghozi escape from the Philippine National Police (PNP) prison compound last week? It would appear that he simply walked out.

On July 14, the Indonesian Jema'ah Islamiyah (JI) bomb expert, along with two other inmates, members of the Abu Sayyaf bandit group, apparently unlocked their cell with a set of spare keys, relocked it, walked out of the jail building and through the prison gates, and used a small guardhouse to vault over the compound wall. Of the four guards detailed in al-Ghozi's area, one was sleeping; another was out shopping. Nevertheless, the guards managed to register their hourly head count as complete.

It was the inmate remaining in al-Ghozi's cell - apparently left behind because of bad blood with one of the Filipino escapees - who notified the guards of the escape. They refused to believe him, however, because the cell remained padlocked. Only when a new set of guards arrived five hours later was the escape discovered; and only hours after that - allowing al-Ghozi a full half-day head start - was the news reported to Philippine President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo. She had just met with Australian Prime Minister John Howard to discuss joint counter-terrorism initiatives.

When al-Ghozi next met unidentified raiders a few months later, presumably on the strength of intelligence, he never had a chance to offer anyone anything, being killed nearly on the spot, a circumstance that aroused the ire and outrage of the Philippine Left, which alleged that he was executed. The official story is that he died while trying to escape.

On 12 October 2003, it was reported that al-Ghozi was killed during a police shootout in Mindanao. According to reports, the authorities received a tip that al-Ghozi was travelling near Pigcauayan. A military checkpoint was set up, but the jeep transporting al-Ghozi rammed through the roadblock and a gun battle ensued. Soldiers shot al-Ghozi while he was attempting to detonate a hand grenade; he died on the way to a nearby clinic.

Western readers sometimes presume that foreign agents coordinating with officials in the host country get things done by talking to this or that minister and sealing things with a manly handshake with the attending general just like they do in the UN documentaries. I wonder if this is true. In my experience, to be really effective in a third world country one must build up a private network of local operators loyal to you personally. Not to an ideology or to a country but to you, individually and personally. You must be a godfather to their children, their drinking buddy at the saloon and their banker of last resort when their wife gets sick. Until you have been invited to warble with them with the Magic Sing Karaoke you really haven't been accepted. Terrorists know this. Thus, Al-Ghozi built up a private network of guards who would set him free. And he walked. It's possible that persons unknown may have built up a network of raiders who would in turn ensure that al-Ghozi would never escape again. Touche.


Blogger Pierre said...

More thoughts on the War against Islamic Terror

Now with word out that Israel may be planning a nuclear strike against Iran things are coming to a head. I wonder if the surge that some are interpreting as a prelude to a withdrawal is merely a way of getting enough troops into Iraq to take care of Iran?

1/06/2007 02:55:00 PM  
Blogger wretchardthecat said...

See the Drudge Report and Debka for more in this vein. Some time back there was somewhat far-fetched speculation, and I emphasize speculation, that Britain was expecting a dirty bomb attack. All this stuff is hair-raising and scary. It might even be true. But the sober thing to do is to simply take it under advisement. Nothing worse than the boy who cried "wolf" too many times.

If a big showdown is underway we will know soon enough.

1/06/2007 03:25:00 PM  
Blogger Herr Wu Wei said...

The good news is that the Iraqi government claims to have put 20,000 troops into Baghdad, and is starting to clean up the insurgents.

The bad news is that all the targets so far have been Sunnis, so this looks like civil war, Shiite militias in government uniforms cleaning out the Sunni resistance.

This just started today so it certainly is theoretically possible that the government forces could target Shiite insurgents. But considering the situation, if the Iraqi government was serious about showing they were unbiased, they would have started by targeting Shiite militias, or both groups at the same time. They also said that "new drive would focus initially on Sunni insurgent strongholds in western Baghdad", meaning they don't expect to target Shiites any time soon.

Here's a link to the article, and some quotes from it in bold:

Iraqi Baghdad Drive

In the opening battle of a major drive to tame the violent capital, the Iraqi army reported it killed 30 militants Saturday in a firefight in a Sunni insurgent stronghold just north of the heavily fortified Green Zone.

Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki, speaking only hours earlier at a ceremony marking the 85th anniversary of the Iraqi army, announced his intention for the open-ended attempt to crush the militant fighters who have left Baghdad in the grip of sectarian violence.

Hassan al-Suneid, a key aide and member of al-Maliki's Dawa Party, said the Iraqi leader had committed 20,000 soldiers to the operation and would call upon American troops and airpower only when needed...

State television said eight militants, including five Sudanese fighters, were captured in the battle near Haifa Street, a Sunni insurgent stronghold on the west bank of the Tigris where police reported finding the bodies of 27 torture victims earlier in the day.

Al-Suneid, who is also a member of parliament, said the new drive would focus initially on Sunni insurgent strongholds in western Baghdad.

Sunnis were likely to object, given that a large measure of today's violence in Baghdad is the work of Shiite militias, loyal to al-Maliki's key political backer, the anti-American cleric Muqtada al-Sadr...

Any civilians carrying arms faced automatic detention, he said, and would be shot if they resisted, the general said on condition of anonymity because of the sensitive nature of the information.

1/06/2007 03:39:00 PM  
Blogger Amadeo said...

Those small-time bombings in that part of the country are now considered quite usual, they hardly raise any more fuss than your typical fatal accidents or multiple homicide, especially in the Moslem areas, or the autonomous ARRM areas of southern Mindanao. And even in non-Moslem areas in the northern areas these bombings occur with a certain expected regularity, in bus terminals, market places, and other areas where intra-province public transports congregate. What has been avoided are really devastating bombings in urban areas, such as in the cities and their malls.

If there are plans to set one off in highly-urbanized Cebu, then it will have to be a big and highly-organized operation. And in this regard I will not discount especially the daring capabilities of that city's local government to resort to legal shortcuts in the process of eliminating any and all bad elements in that city.

This may be considered a plus factor in a third world country beset with mostly the negatives, the ability of its local law enforcement agencies to literally take the law in their own hands if so ordered from above.

1/06/2007 03:46:00 PM  
Blogger Herr Wu Wei said...

This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

1/06/2007 03:51:00 PM  
Blogger Herr Wu Wei said...

This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

1/06/2007 03:54:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Similar to the US, where armed cross-border intruders chase off armed but unloaded US Military troops, and border security agents are prosecuted for carrying out their duties against drug-running illegals.
...and the president oversees high visibility token enforcement efforts in place of substantive action.
Laws are made to be broken, afterall, in our Brave New World.

1/06/2007 03:54:00 PM  
Blogger Herr Wu Wei said...

There are lots of possibilities. Since the Shiite militias are part of the government, they may have agreed to cease fire on civilians while they, as government forces, were doing this operation.

By temporarily ceasing fire on civilians, Sadr's group and the rest of the government / Shiite forces focus on eliminating the Sunni defenders. Being defenseless, most of the remaining Sunni civilians would likely flee, and at a later date the Shiite militias could drive out any stragglers by force.

The big question is what the Sunni resistance will do. More car bombs? Or will they too group into a conventional army, then fight the Shiite army face to face?

1/06/2007 03:56:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

"they hardly raise any more fuss than your typical fatal accidents or multiple homicide"
Fatal accidents and homicides causing 10 time more deaths than 9-11 since 9-11 are routinely buried by the media, not attributed to illegals, and ignored by the CIC.

1/06/2007 03:58:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Haven't heard much more about what the Saudis would do in response.

1/06/2007 03:59:00 PM  
Blogger Herr Wu Wei said...

I didn't see this part of the article, which if it comes true, would change the analysis. However, I am skeptical that Maliki would allow operations against al-Sadr, at least his main force. There was talk though that there were some rogues spun off al-Sadr's group, and he might remove protection from them. Also since the Shiite militias are the government, they could do a phony "catch and release", in one jail door and out the other, like Arafat used to do on the rare occasions he symbolically captured one of his own people.

Military commanders said operations against the al-Sadr's Mahdi Army militia in its Sadr City stronghold would be left largely to a joint force made up of U.S. soldiers and the Iraqi Special Operations Command division under Brig. Gen. Fadhil Birwari, a Kurd. Soldiers in the division are a mixture of Kurds and Arabs from both the Sunni and Shiite sects.

1/06/2007 04:06:00 PM  
Blogger Herr Wu Wei said...

Here is the a fresh article about Saudi Arabia, dated today:

Saudi Article

There has been some internal Saudi power struggles lately, apparently over this issue. One effect was that the Saudi Ambassador to the US flew home in a fit of rage (against Saudi internal politics).

Article quotes in bold:

Saudi Arabia urges U.S. to change course in Iraq

Saudi Arabia has urged the United States to change course in Iraq and warned against the break-up of the country along ethnic or religious lines amid growing sectarian violence, a newspaper said on Saturday.

"The coalition forces in Iraq should review the aims of their presence and the strategy of remaining there because the question that should be asked is: what have these forces achieved since their arrival on Iraqi land?" Crown Prince Sultan bin Abdul-Aziz told the London-based Asharq al-Awsat newspaper.

"Has the strategy that these forces are using achieved anything positive? Are there strategic alternatives that should be considered as the existing situation in Iraq deteriorates?"

1/06/2007 04:11:00 PM  
Blogger allen said...


re: unarmed Guardsmen

See my link at TigerHawk. It is being reported that the Guardsmen had no weapons or enforcement authority. For lack of a better phrase, they appear no more than "politically expedient targets" - some might say, not unlike troops in Iraq.

Regarding "bringing the war to a close"

1/06/2007 04:41:00 PM  
Blogger Herr Wu Wei said...

The Democrats support the use of force against Iran, saying that it is unacceptable for Iran to have nukes!

Nuclear Iran

Article quote in bold:

Iran with nuclear weapons is unacceptable, new House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer told The Jerusalem Post hours after entering the party leadership position.

The Maryland Democrat said the view is shared by his party, rejecting assertions that the Democrats would be weaker than the Republicans on Iran.

He also said that the use of force against Teheran remained an option.

Hoyer, second only in the hierarchy of the House of Representatives to Speaker Nancy Pelosi, is charged with articulating and strategizing on party policy.

1/06/2007 05:06:00 PM  
Blogger Reliapundit said...

Hi Wrtechard -

regarding the lionk above to THE ASTUTE BLOGGERS:

Actually Pastorius believes that there MIGHT be an impending NUCLEAR BOMB attack in the UK.

He believes that the polonium which poisoned Litvinenko was intended for use as a trigger/bullet in a suitcase nuke, and that litvinenko was accidentally poisoned, and that the assassination story is a co\ver up.

i argued - in an addendum to his post, and in the comment thread there, that a putin hit was the simplest and therefore most likely explanation, but that it is also more likely the polonium was intened for use in a dirty bomb.

we are still debeating this at TAB.

like you, we hope the UK authorities are considering these scenarios.

the case - you must admit - is quite baffling.

in view of the fact that AQ KHAN did large scale nuclear smuggling for years we must NOT dismiss any scenario as being out of hand.

and actually i think making scenarios/gaming can be quite helpful.

all the best.

PS: thanks for the PJM link the other day!

1/06/2007 07:25:00 PM  
Blogger allen said...

I just hope the Iranians are thinking within the box of conventional wisdom. Their defensive network indicates as much. The Iranians are betting the farm on a direct attack against their strong points. Well, it isn't going to happen.

Instead, I foresee attacks against Iranian infrastructure. Take a look at maps showing Iranian hydrology, power grid, highway and rail system, oil and gas pipelines. Further, look at the population densities in and around Iran’s urban centers.

Either we are the Israelis will turn off the lights, cut the highways and rails, turn off the water, and close off the pipelines, shut down the harbors and major airports, and destroy communications hubs. Deaf, dumb, blind, and starving, Iran will fall into tribal revolt. At that point the nuclear facilities will be vulnerable.

It was unnecessary for the Russians to defeat Napoleon's Grande Armée in battle. They starved it to death. Napoleon, thinking conventionally, did not imagine the possibility

1/06/2007 09:20:00 PM  
Blogger 3Case said...

No...No...NO!!!...Didn't the Phillipines become perfect and purged of allit's corruption after they got rid of that guy with the wife with all the shoes?...and threw out the USN and the USAF?!!!

"Laws are made to be broken [by the correct people], afterall, in our Brave New World."

That Vietnamese guy is not of the correct sort; expect him to be caught or killed before the swells meet to feast.

1/06/2007 10:03:00 PM  
Blogger 3Case said...

Napoleon failed to respect the terrain. Kutuzov did and used it well.

1/06/2007 10:07:00 PM  
Blogger Herr Wu Wei said...

The Iranian opponents of hardline president Ahmadinejad are going to try to impeach him because of his nuclear policy. Ahmadinejad's group lost seats in a recent election.

Iran Impeachment

Quotes from the article in bold:

Iranian reformist parliamentarians on Saturday blamed President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad's government for failing to prevent United Nations sanctions...

Reformist former President Mohammad Khatami suspended Iran's nuclear work for more than two years in an effort to build confidence and avoid confrontation with the West, but resumed uranium enrichment in February last year.

"The only way to pass the crisis is to build confidence ... but a holding Holocaust conference and financing the Hamas government creates mistrust and tension," Noureddin Pirmoazzen, the spokesman of parliament's reformist faction, told Reuters...

the reformers made a strong showing at local council elections in December, with many voters worried about Iran's increasing diplomatic isolation and economic problems...

"We hope to witness a return to the manner of Khatami's government and see the crisis is solved in the next 60 days, or else we will have no alternative but to impeach Foreign Minister Manouchehr Mottaki," Pirmoazzen said.

Any request to impeach a minister needs to be signed by at least 10 lawmakers. Pirmoazzen said that even without the support of majority conservative deputies, the 42-member reformist faction had enough votes to call an impeachment debate. But the impeachment motion would be unlikely to succeed.

1/06/2007 10:35:00 PM  
Blogger Herr Wu Wei said...

Quotes in bold from an article:

30 terrorists killed

A fierce clash left at least 30 people dead in central Baghdad late Saturday night as Iraqi Army forces fought with gunmen in an area where several residents had been killed and their bodies hanged from street lampposts, the Iraqi military said.

The fighting took place in the neighborhood around Haifa Street, a mostly Sunni Arab enclave with a small Shiite population.

A spokesman for the Defense Ministry, Muhammad al-Askari, said that an Iraqi Army unit had gone into the area after receiving reports that Sunni fighters had set up a fake security checkpoint and were taking Shiites aside and shooting them.

The bodies of many of those killed at the roadblock were then hanged from the lampposts, Mr. Askari said.

He said that Iraqi soldiers had moved in and surrounded the fighters at the checkpoint. In initial fighting there, 30 of the men were killed and several more were arrested, Mr. Askari said, adding that the neighborhood remained locked down.

This is terrorism at its worst. A different article says that foreigners were involved, meaning that al Qaeda was probably part of this.

We should encourage the government, and if they won't act, militias, to prevent ethnic cleansing of this type, even though some would say that increases the risk of civil war. It would be far, far better to have this escalate to become Sunni & Shiite "soldiers" fighting each other than for civilians of each side to continue being lynched like this.

We should just let the Iraqi government fight, with no restrictions. They are a sovereign democracy. If they do wrong, the Sunnis will let the world know. It is time to finish this.

1/06/2007 11:50:00 PM  
Blogger john marzan said...

This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

1/07/2007 02:35:00 AM  
Blogger john marzan said...

Of course if Vo Van Duc's name were Lance Corporal Daniel Smith, USMC, and the Left had set out to make an example of him, there might be more interest in keeping him in jail.

oh, you your bullshit again, wretchard.

the reason why smith is getting more attention is because of the special treatment being given to him by the RP government.

When al-Ghozi next met unidentified raiders a few months later, presumably on the strength of intelligence, he never had a chance to offer anyone anything, being killed nearly on the spot, a circumstance that aroused the ire and outrage, which alleged that he was executed. The official story is that he died while trying to escape.

What "ire"? what "outrage" from the Left re al ghozi's death?

the only outrage i heard from the public and other Coalition countries was directed at the Arroyo administration for letting Al Ghozi escape, apparently with the help of corrupt local authorities.

And what has the "Philippine Left" got to do with the escaped islamic militants? talk about a non sequitur. talk about barking at the wrong tree. it all about corruption in the military, sir.

if i were to place a blame on somebody, it would be our corrupt military and administration, and less on the Bayan Muna lefty types for bungling the war against islamic jihadists.

You know, I still read your blog (not as much as i used to), and I agree with most of what you say. But when it comes to the RP politics, you have a blind spot.

and what you're doing is a disservice to your foreign readers. oh well...

1/07/2007 02:55:00 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

re: Israeli nukes (pierre legrand above), the most significant part of that article is this:

However, the nuclear-tipped bunker-busters would be used only if a conventional attack was ruled out and if the United States declined to intervene, senior sources said.

That sounds like a message to us, no?

1/07/2007 08:23:00 AM  
Blogger Db2m said...

Aristides said,

"That sounds like a message to us, no?"

Interesting thought, why not game it on thru?

- Db2m

1/07/2007 03:02:00 PM  
Blogger Utopia Parkway said...

The Muslim insurgency in the Philippines is in its way similar to many of the other insurgencies that we see. The Muslims have their own ink-spot strategy where they attack weak points, rather than strong points, and work towards gaining sanctuaries. The insurgants have learned that they can't win against Western forces so they attack civilians, use sabotage, etc..

We allow them to gain sanctuaries, as in Waziristan, Sudan, Somalia, Afghanistan, Philippines, and others, at our peril. If they were to gain control of Pakistan, or Iraq, as they control Iran, this would be a serious setback for our side.

I think in Africa they are losing but central Asia remains to be seen.

Waziristan, unfortunately, is almost a perfect scenario for them. They are inside the boundaries of a real country whose govornment prevents Western forces from entering. At the same time they are essentially autonomous inside Pakistan. They have successfully forces the Paks to back off from bothering them.

The Philippines scenario is similar in a number of ways. The Ph military is not very competent and the Ph govt isn't going to let a large US force enter to clean up the insurgents.

The likely outcome in Waziristan is that at some point there will be major attack whose origin is traced back to Waziristan and the Paks won't be able to keep us out. Not sure about in the Phillippines as the insurgents there seem more interested in their own local power rather than in external adventures.

This all makes the 9/11 attacks so senseless, except as a recruiting tool. Their best strategy is to boil the frog slowly. They need to gain control of real countries with real economies in order to hit the West hard. As in, of course, Iran.

1/07/2007 05:37:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

See Bill Roggio, re: Afghanistan/Wahrizistan.
He and Yon are both concerned.
In Bill's latest he covers our "obsession" w/poppies threatening to turn the rural populace against us for good.
Thinks Afghanistan is too important for that, as do I.

1/08/2007 03:27:00 AM  

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