As I am sure every reader knows, Usama bin Laden is dead. He deserved it, many times over. The only thing that could have made me happier is if it had happened sooner than it did. I must say, I was a bit dismayed by the way some of my countrymen celebrated rather than simply honored those who lost their lives at the hands of bin Laden, but that is not what this article is about.
So, what is this article about,then, and what does it have to do with the Philippines? Well, perhaps you didn’t know, but Usama bin Laden, and his Al Qaeda terror network have a number of Philippine Connections.
The most famous of bin Laden’s connections to the Philippines, of course, is the Abu Sayyaf Filipino terrorist group, which is basically the arm of Al Qaeda in the Philippines. Additionally, Al Qaeda and Usama bin Laden have been linked to the Indonesian terror group, Jemah Islamiya, which also operates in parts of Mindanao. Abu Sayyaf has primarily been a Kidnap group over the years, but has also carried out some bombings over the years as well. It was Abu Sayyaf that was responsible for the kidnapping of American Missionaries Martin and Gracia Burnham in 2000, resulting in the death of Martin Burnham.
Back in 2002, there was a terrorist attack in the Indonesian resort city of Bali, and it was carried out by Jemah Islamiya. The attack was reportedly coordinated by a fellow named Umar Patek. Patek is an Indonesian who is a member of Jemah Islamiya/Al Qaeda. After the Bali bombings, Patek fled to Mindanao and lived in Mindanao until recently. A few months ago, he went to Pakistan, though, and was caught about 2 months ago in Abbottabad, Pakistan. Do you know where bin Laden was living? In Abbottabad. Hmm.. it would seem to me that perhaps Patek was in Abbottabad to coordinate with bin Laden, or meet with him for some other reason, don’t you think? In fact, there is some speculation that after Patek’s arrest, it is possible that he gave up information that helped pinpoint bin Laden’s hideout. So, a Philippine Connection to bin Laden that may have lead to his downfall.
Another bin Laden terrorist cohort with a Philippine connection was Ramzi Yousef. Yousef was responsible for the first World Trade Center bombing in 1993. Yousef lived in the Philippines for a number of years, and actually did hijacking and bombing testing on Philippine airplanes before launching attacks! Additionally, Yousef was the nephew of Khalid Sheik Mohammad, Al Qaeda’s number 3.
Another thing that I do know as well is that if you go to some parts of Mindanao, particularly in the ARMM (Autonomous Region of Muslim Mindanao), many people considered bin Laden a hero of sorts. One time, a few years ago, I was in the town of Sultan Kudarat (not Sultan Kudarat Province) in the Province of Sharif Kabungsuwan, just outside of Cotabato City. As I was driving, I saw a small store along the highway that caught my eye. It was quite a bit nicer than the other Sari-Sari stores that I ran across in the area. When I noticed the name of the store, I just had to stop and take a picture – Bin Laden Store. See the photo above at the left!
Finally, there is one bin Laden connection to the Philippines which has been rumored for years, but so far I have not been able to get any actual hard evidence. I have heard for years that one of bin Laden’s wives is a Filipina from Marawi City, Lanao del Sur. Like I say, I don’t know if this is true, but I have heard it so many times that it either is, or has made it’s way into Filipino folklore over the years. Have you ever heard anything like this?
Goodbye, Usama. We won’t miss you.