Monday, February 14, 2005

One Little, Two Little, Three Little Eichmanns

The Christian Science Monitor has details on the assassination of the former Lebanese prime minister and the possibility the blame will fall on Syria.

Rafik Hariri, a billionaire businessman and former Lebanese prime minister who helped rebuild Beirut from its civil war, was killed Monday in a massive car bomb explosion in the city's downtown district.  ...

Hariri was prime minister for 10 of the 15 years since the end of the 1975-1990 civil war and was the driving force behind the massive multibillion dollar reconstruction program here. His last term in office, which ended with his resignation in October, was marred by a cold relationship with the pro-Syrian president, Emile Lahoud. Hariri was regarded as a powerful, if de facto, member of the increasingly robust Lebanese opposition which is pressing Syria to withdraw its estimated 14,000 troops from Lebanon and cease interfering in the Lebanese political process.

The bomb exploded as Hariri's mortorcade passed by, killing him and nine other people. Hariri's body was taken to the American University Hospital where he was pronounced dead. Some 100 people were injured in the blast, mainly from flying glass.

Meanwhile, a world away, three bombs claimed by the Abu Sayyaf have exploded in three Philippine cities.

The Manila bombing occurred about 7:30 p.m. local time on a bus travelling along a busy highway. Police said three people were killed and at least 60 others injured. A blast outside the Gaisano mall in southern General Santos city an hour earlier killed at least five people and injured at least 36 others. Another bomb that went off almost simultaneously killed a 12-year-old boy and injured at least eight people at a bus terminal in Davao, also in the southern Philippines.

The Muslim extremist group Abu Sayyaf claimed responsibility for the blasts in the capital Manila and two other cities, saying the attacks were a Valentine's Day "gift" to President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo. ... The group said the bombings were retribution for a military offensive against Islamic militants in the southern Philippines. Some 60 people have been killed in fighting during a government attack on the island of Jolo. "Our latest operations – planned and executed with precision by the gallant warriors of Islam – is our continuing response to the Philippine government's atrocities committed against Muslims everywhere," said Solaiman, promising more attacks in the future.

How did that Philippine "government attack" on the island of Jolo start? The BBC has details:

The fighting began last Monday. An Abu Sayyaf leader, Abu Solaiman, told a radio station it had joined forces with the Misuari followers to avenge the death of a couple and their son who were killed by troops. The military says it returned fire after the couple shot at soldiers. The rebels then attacked troops at an army base, killing 30, including the battalion commander, the military says. The government flew in reinforcements, including US-trained counter-terrorist troops, and said the army has killed more than 60 rebels in heavy fighting.

(The CBC report should really have said '90 people, including 60 rebels', which is how some other news outlets relate events.) Although events in the Lebanon and the Philippines have different actors and disparate proximate causes, they resemble each other in that each represents a campaign by a determined minority to advance a political agenda with the assistance of outside help. Both are also manifestations of a terrorist style of war that has proved difficult, but not impossible, for their opponents to combat; features it shares with troublespots like southern Thailand and Indonesia, among others. That style of combat, supported by a loosely coupled, but coherent infrastructure, was once described as netwar by RAND researcher John Arquilla. Tracing its development from anarchists in Seattle, the Zapatistas in Mexico to Al Qaeda, Arquilla notes:

More than ever before, conflicts revolve around “knowledge” and the use of “soft power.” Adversaries are learning to emphasize “information operations” and “perception management”—that is, media-oriented measures that aim to attract or disorient rather than coerce, and that affect how secure a society, a military, or other actor feels about its knowledge of itself and of its adversaries. Psychological disruption may become as important a goal as physical destruction.


The Abu Sayyaf have perfected the 'victim is guilty' line and may be successfully selling it to the news outlets. According to the local Inquirer newspaper, the dead and mutilated victims are combatants --  "little Eichmanns".

"This is our Valentine gift to Gloria (President Macapagal-Arroyo)," Abu Solayman, a self-proclaimed Abu Sayyaf spokesperson, said when interviewed by GMA Network radio station dzBB. Speaking at least 30 minutes after the Makati bombing, Solayman warned of more attacks.

"We will find more ways to inflict damage," he said. "The defenders of Islam have struck again. It is our response to unabated atrocities that the government has been committing against the Muslims, from the harassment and arrest of innocent Muslims in Manila, to the attack in our own homes (in Mindanao)." Solayman ominously added: "Grieve and mourn your dead. We will make no distinction between civilians and (soldiers). You create your own government."

The "harassment and arrest of innocent Muslims" may be a reference to the recent rollup of a gang planning to bomb a traditional church procession in crowded district of Quiapo, ironically only a short distance from a mosque of fairly new construction.

Some 320 suspected Muslim militants are being hunted in connection with terrorist plots, including an alleged plan to bomb the Feast of the Black Nazarene procession in Quiapo, Manila last Sunday, the Philippine National Police (PNP) said yesterday. ... At least three improvised explosive devices and hand guns were seized in the raid which police said foiled the planned bombing of the Black Nazarene procession, in which an ebony image of Jesus was paraded around Quiapo. The procession pushed through without a hitch. Organizers said it was the biggest crowd in recent years. ...

Penny Disimbal, national president of the Assalam Bangsamoro People’s Party, branded as "irresponsible" the CIDG’s claims that the arrested men were terrorists ... Disimbal added that they have witnesses to prove that the alleged explosives and firearms seized from the suspects were "planted" by law enforcers who barged into the Islamic Information Center, located on the second floor of the Agoncillo Building on Pedro Gil street and Taft Avenue in Manila, without search warrants.

Witnesses said two members of the raiding team brought black bags where the supposed explosives and firearms were kept, later presenting these to reporters as evidence. "We abhor and detest the unceremonious desecration of the Muslim Mussalla prayer room and learning center and the arrest of 16 innocent Muslim individuals without justifiable reason or basis and the continuing harassment of the Muslims in Metro Manila and elsewhere," Disimbal said.