Monday, October 13, 2003

What Shootout?

The death of Fathur Roman Al-Ghozi as he 'attempted to run a checkpoint' in Pigcawayan, North Cotabato probably did not happen as advertised. But first, to the basics. It apparently is Al-Ghozi. Compare this file photograph of the Light Rail Transit bomber from the Sydney Morning Herald to his picture, lying on a mortuary slab, in the Philippine Star. One will at once notice that his two prominent front teeth are identical in both photographs, in addition to the striking resemblance between the two faces. It is Al-Ghozi.

But the next thing to notice from the mortuary picture is the bullet entry wound to his left chest right about where the heart would be. It is not an exit wound, otherwise the hydrostatic shock of a bullet fired at close range (he ran the checkpoint, remember?) would have pushed out considerable material from the wound channel. This is inconsistent with the story of the shootout.

The second item of interest is an article from Rexel Sorza of Islam Online dated September 21, 2003, at least three weeks before Al-Ghozi's demise.

In August 2003, Al Ghozi was reported to have sought refuge in Sultan Naga Dimaporo and Maigo, both of Lanao del Norte. The manhunt suddenly shifted to Kabuntalan and Datu Piang in Sultan Kudarat, all of Maguindanao, and Midsayap and Pigcawayan of North Cotabato.

That would seem to indicate that even newspaper reporters knew that the Philippine Military were closing in on Al-Ghozi. Anyone familiar with towns like Pigcawayan knows it consists of a single main drag off which a number of muddy cowtracks diverge. The idea that a hunted Al-Ghozi would come barreling down that single highway right through a cordon sounds a little strange. Here's the 'official' version of events.

Military and police officials said Al-Ghozi, 32, and an unidentified man were tracked down in a small van that tried to run through a checkpoint on the Cotabato-Davao Highway at about 8 p.m. Sunday in Barangay Pugon in Pigkawanan town, North Cotabato. Al-Ghozi allegedly fired twice at the police officers and troops manning the checkpoint and was killed. Police said Al-Ghozi took five bullets — two in the chest, one on his left side, one each in both arms. Philippine National Police chief Director General Hermogenes Ebdane, who flew to Mindanao yesterday, said the other man escaped.

Right. The van just drove on. Or maybe the other 'unidentified man' jumped out and showed the breathless cops a clean pair of heels. But not before Al-Ghozi fell out of the van or jumped out, maybe, with five wounds, including one right through the heart, which remember, had to be fired from the front.

Fathur Roman Al-Ghozi killed many people in the December 30, 2000 bombing of a commuter train in Manila, including children. Although his death removes a public danger, there is little to be gained by this crude Philippine government dramatization. If there's one thing we should hate more than being lied to by the enemy, it is being taken for fools by our friends. The Philippine government should say he was summarily executed, and that he had it coming. That would be the manly and responsible thing to do.