Bureau of Immigration (BI) agents took into custody Monday night
Mohammad Amin Al-Ghafari, a Jordanian tagged by Zamboanga military
intelligence men as a mastermind of the Oct. 2 bombing near a
military camp in Zamboanga City.
Immigration officials stressed they took in Al-Ghafari,
of Palestinian birth, not as a suspect in the bombing, but as an
illegal alien who has violated the country’s immigration laws.
Police have dismissed the military claim linking
Al-Ghafari to the blast that killed three persons, including a US
Green Beret, and injured 21 others. Investigators say there is
hardly any proof of his involvement in the bombing.
But an advance report of The Philippine
Graphic’s Oct. 21 issue notes that the latest twist in the
campaign against terrorism finds top police officials in the
spotlight as alleged protectors of suspected terrorists.
According to the Graphic article, Al-Ghafari has
been a mainstay in intelligence reports since 1995 — the year
Philippine police uncovered the germ of the Sept. 11, 2001 attacks
on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon. But as intelligence
officers tried to track him down, Deputy Director-General Rex Piad
and other ranking police officials were trying to shield him.
Graphic Managing Editor (and former Manila Times
associate editor) Inday Espina-Varona interviewed Piad, who
confirmed he helped Al-Ghafari get two clearances, including one
early this year, from the PNP Directorate for Intelligence.
These clearances allowed the Jordanian to extend
his Philippine visa.
This, despite Al-Ghafari’s apparent role as
successor to Jamal Khalifa. Khalifa, a brother-in-law of Osama bin
Laden, once operated the biggest Islamic charity network in the
country and Southeast Asia.
Khalifa was arrested in 1995, shortly after
police broke open a network led by Ramzi Youssef, suspected
mastermind of the first World Trade Center bombing in 1993, and his
“uncle,” Khalid Shaik Mohammad, said to be al-Qaida’s top man
The Graphic report also names Piad, and retired
generals Eduardo Cuadra and Percival Adiong as directors of the
Islamic Wisdom Worldwide Mission (IWWM), a foundation headed by Al-Ghafari
and a suspected conduit of funds for terrorist operations.
Piad admitted the allegation but defended IWWM,
saying that police have yet to charge any member or director of the
Piad, a Balik-Islam since 1995, said he joined
IWWM after his first jihad in 1995. It was Cuadra who invited him to
join, Piad said.
Cuadra formerly headed the PNP’s Region 1
office, where organizations allied to IWWM have built several
mosques, including one inside the Philippine Military Academy (PMA).
The Graphic quotes Piad as saying charity work
is a basic pillar of the Islamic faith. The weekly news magazine
also cautions that linking the three Muslim generals to alleged
terrorist fronts may be a knee-jerk reaction on the part of local
“I say nothing is wrong with that,” Piad
told the Graphic. “If they have a case (against IWWM), they should
file it in court.”
Piad did not deny granting Al-Ghafari favors.
Following is an excerpt from the Graphic report:
“He came to me and asked for assistance,”
Piad said. “It was not really a pressing problem, but every time
he needed an extension for his visa, it reflected that he is a
subject of investigation.”
Piad insisted the reports on the IWWM were
“not really derogatory.”
“He came to me. I tried to help and find out
what the DI’s holdings were. Wala naman. What the BI needed was
for the PNP to submit a new list.”
But the new list, issued May 2002, still
included Al-Ghafari and the IWWM as suspected financiers of
Intelligence documents link Al-Ghafari to Ahmed
Dawud Santos, head of the Rajah Sulaiman Movement, which ran the
madaris in Pangasinan which were raided last May. Police reported
seizing guns and explosives equipment from several minor scholars
of the Pangasinan schools.
Intelligence sources also told the Graphic that
Al-Ghafari met with Santos and other radicals in Baguio, after Sept.
11. A tape of that meeting, sources claimed, reveals the group
gloating over the attacks that killed more than 3,000 people.
Piad admitted he was already chief of staff of
the PNP when he last helped Al-Ghafari.
“He said somebody was conducting surveillance
on him,” Piad said.
“I endorsed him to NICA (National Intelligence
Coordinating Agency) for investigation. He was investigated and was
issued a clearance, I think,” he said. “I told him to clear
yourself, you have to submit yourself to investigation.”
The police general also insisted no PNP
colleague had confronted him about IWWM’s alleged terrorist links.
Cataluna also said BI only gave Al-Ghafari a
certificate attesting no case had been filed against him.
“We only certified that he has no case filed
against him. That certification was based on the records of our
counter-security intelligence chief,” he pointed out.
Asked why officials did not consider the numerous
dossiers on Al-Ghafari, Cataluna said intelligence reports do not
have the same weight as actual cases filed.
Army intelligence men have tied Al-Ghafari to
the extremist Palestinian group Hamas, but police sleuths say it is
his brother who is a member of Hamas.
However, intelligence documents dating to 1995
point to his foundation’s headquarters in Quiapo as a gathering
place for suspected Hamas sympathizers.
In Camp Crame, the Criminal Investigation and
Detection Group (CIDG) yesterday said it has identified the suspect
in the Zamboanga City bombing, describing him as a member of the Abu
Sayyaf faction belonging to Khadaffy Janjalani.
CIDG Director Chief Supt. Eduardo Matillano
emphasized that “no foreign terrorists were involved” in the
He refused to identify the suspect, saying that
divulging it could compromise follow-up operations.
Matillano said two waitresses in a nearby
restaurant saw the suspect park the motorcycle believed to be packed
with explosives in front of a karaoke bar.
Police traced the motorcycle to a certain
Kenneth Pang, a resident of Al-Jareeh Apartment in Bgy. Tumaga,
Matillano said Pang sold the motorcycle to an
individual he refused to identify.
He said the CIDG is looking for two more people
affiliated with the Abu Sayyaf, who planned the attack.
US Army Sergeant Mark Wayne Jackson and two
Filipinos, one of them believed to be the bomber, were killed in the
With John Anthony Concepcion, Roland Ramos, William B. Depasupil