The FBI is still sifting through hundreds of tips on the two suspicious men in Seattle whom ferry employees witnessed photographing restricted areas and pacing several ferry routes, “as if trying to measure distances,” over the past several weeks.
I have learned that these men have been the subject of much investigative energy within homeland security bureaucracies for quite some time. Indeed, one source told me that until the FBI released the photos of the men, the snapshots had been handled as classified material.
Arab-American and Muslim groups have suggested that the FBI is unfairly profiling Middle Eastern men (even though no one at the FBI has breathed a word about the men’s ethnicity or religion). But as I’ve noted many times in speeches and debates about profiling, if Filipinos were engaging in this same sort of suspicious behavior, I’d want the feds to give them every bit of extra scrutiny they deserve. And I believe they are.
Abu Sayyaf jihadists and other loosely-affiliated al Qaeda off-shoots in the Philippines pose national security risks not just to that country, but to the rest of the free world. Operation Bojinka, the precursor to the 9/11 attacks, was hatched in the Philippines. Ramzi Yousef, the convicted mastermind of the 1993 WTC bombing, trained operatives in the Philippines and set up bases and finances there with Khalid Sheik Mohammed for bin Laden. And as I noted in my first post on the Seattle ferry story on Aug. 21, al Qaeda-linked operatives in the Philippines have targeted ferries before for mass murder and violence.
Those plots and the jihadists behind them are worth a closer look.
Filipino Muslim convert Redendo Cain Dellosa, aka Habil Akmad Dellosa, admitted to carrying out the bombing of a superferry in February 2004 that killed 116 people in Manila Bay. Dellosa had trained under an Indonesian Jemaah Islamiya (JI) instructor in January 2003 in Jolo, Sulu and underwent further explosives training in Buti, Lanao del Su, according to Filipino authorities. Dellosa told police he had carted eight pounds of TNT in a cardboard box onto the ship, concealed it in a TV set in a cabin bunk, and deboarded the ferry before the timed bombing device exploded and partially sunk the vessel. Militant Muslims working for Abu Sayyaf were fingered in another ferry bombing in the Philippines in 2005. Stratfor looks at ferries as jihad targets here.
The Christian Science Monitor and Western Resistance outline the threat of Filipino Muslim converts who have spread from the southern islands to the main island of Luzon, where they blend in with Catholic names. They are part of a larger “Balik Islam” (Return to Islam) movement converting Filipinos in droves to the cause of jihad. Among the prominent Filipino jihadists arrested for terrorist plotting: Rajah Solaiman group founder Ahmed Islam Santos and No. 2 leader Pio Abogne de Vera. Others arrested in airport, mall, and church bombing plots have ties to JI and Abu Sayyaf. Four were apprehended as they got off a ferry in February 2005.
Behind every picture, there’s a bigger picture. Behind the FBI photo of the suspicious Seattle ferry riders, there may be many more dots to be connected than are immediately obvious to the public.
In other words: Keep your eyes wide open. And as always, if you see something, say something.
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