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Cablegate: Philippine Muslim Leaders Denounce Asg Beheadings

VZCZCXRO3349
OO RUEHCHI RUEHDT RUEHHM
DE RUEHML #1298/01 1130848
ZNR UUUUU ZZH
O 230848Z APR 07
FM AMEMBASSY MANILA
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC IMMEDIATE 6232
INFO RUEHZS/ASSOCIATION OF SOUTHEAST ASIAN NATIONS IMMEDIATE
RUEHRH/AMEMBASSY RIYADH IMMEDIATE 0724
RUEKJCS/SECDEF WASHDC IMMEDIATE
RUEAIIA/CIA WASHDC IMMEDIATE
RHHMUNA/CDRUSPACOM HONOLULU HI IMMEDIATE

UNCLAS SECTION 01 OF 02 MANILA 001298

SIPDIS

SENSITIVE
SIPDIS

E.O. 12958: N/A
TAGS: PREL PTER MOPS KISL RP
SUBJECT: PHILIPPINE MUSLIM LEADERS DENOUNCE ASG BEHEADINGS

REF: A. MANILA 1285
B. MANILA 1231
C. MANILA 1206
D. MANILA 1187

1. (SBU) Summary. Government security forces on Jolo have
recovered the headless bodies of seven workers, whom elements
of the Abu Sayyaf Group had recently decapitated. Muslim
political and religious leaders in Mindanao, including the
Moro National Liberation Front, are strongly denouncing the
beheadings as "un-Islamic" and describing such acts of
terrorism as "evil." In response to the gruesome murders,
Malacanang ordered the Armed Forces of the Philippines to
"obliterate" all remaining ASG members in Sulu. The AFP has
begun a new offensive on Jolo Island entitled "Operation
Ultimatum-Kaunlaran (Progress/Development)," maintaining its
simultaneous focus both on military operations against
terrorists and on civil-humanitarian programs, with support
from the USG. End Summary.

------------------------
Decapitated Bodies Found
------------------------

2. (U) Following the recovery of the headless bodies of
seven workers whom the Abu Sayyaf Group (ASG) decapitated
(ref a) on April 20 near the Parang-Indanan boundary in Jolo,
Philippine officials transported five victims to their
grieving family members in Zamboanga City on April 21.
Burial services for the other two victims took place on Jolo.


-------------------
"Terrorism is Evil"
-------------------

3. (U) Islamic religious leaders in Mindanao strongly
denounced acts of terrorism in the aftermath of the
beheadings. "Terrorism is evil. Terrorism is indiscriminate.
An act of terror does not distinguish between combatant and
civilian, innocent or guilty," according to a sermon (or
khutba) on April 20 in mosques throughout the Autonomous
Region in Muslim Mindanao.

4. (U) Aleem Sharif Jul Aberin, the mufti or guardian of the
House of Opinion of Sulu, told the press that those who
committed the beheadings had "lost sense of the basic belief
that God was all just." Aleem Mohammad Sulaiman of the
Mindanao Ulama Congress blamed the crime on the "ignorance"
of the perpetrators.

5. (SBU) A senior adviser to Moro National Liberation Front
(MNLF) Chairman Nur Misuari privately admitted to poloff that
the decapitations of the seven hostages were "an insult to
all Muslims" and a "direct challenge to Islamic tradition."
He described Nur Misuari as "furious" and "disheartened"
over the beheadings. One of Misuari's key spiritual advisor
reportedly also condemned the beheadings as "un-Islamic."

-------------------------------
AFP maintain dual focus on Jolo
-------------------------------

6. (U) The beheadings drew a sharp response from Malacanang
on April 20, with President Arroyo publicly directing the
Armed Forces of the Philippines to "obliterate" all remaining
ASG members in Sulu. In her press statement, Arroyo said
that "the Philippines has zero tolerance for terrorists,
within and even beyond our borders."

7. (SBU) In private comments to Embassy officers, a former
senior Philippine defense official expressed the view that
the beheadings were a sign of the ASG's "total desperation."
"They're on their last legs," he said. According to this
Arroyo loyalist, the Philippine government was near the
"tipping point" on Jolo. "We're doing the right thing there,
and we're going to win," he stated.

8. (U) With the official conclusion of the eight-month
highly successful "Operation Ultimatum" on Jolo Island, the
AFP has directed Task Force Comet to initiate a new
"Operation Ultimatum-Kaunlaran Progress/Development Military
operations against the ASG and rogue MNLF commander Habier
Malik continue, along with civil-military programs to benefit
the island's residents, with advice and assistance from the
U.S. Joint Special Operations Task Force-Philippines.

Visit Embassy Manila's Classified SIPRNET website:

MANILA 00001298 002 OF 002


http://www.state.sgov.gov/p/eap/manila/index. cfm

You can also access this site through the State Department's
Classified SIPRNET website:
http://www.state.sgov.gov/
KENNEY

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