Tuesday, March 15, 2005

At the Big House

Readers who are curious will find a detailed account of the assault on the Abu Sayyaf prisoner rioters here. The picture that emerges is that of a police unit (SAF) that has reached a respectable level of competence but may be a little rough at the edges.

plans had been drafted on how to assault the prison, outflank the superior firing positions of the gunmen and surprise them. Apparently to weaken the resolve of the enemy, SAF commander ordered all lights inside the jail compound turned off and the V-150 armored personnel carrier driven around the area. This was done every hour on the hour until daybreak yesterday. "We wanted them to stay awake and keep them guessing whether we would attack or not," said the SAF official.

Then there was the less than perfect entry strategy. "The SAF raiders positioned themselves at both sides of the main gate of the Abu Sayyaf cell at the ground floor and tried to pry open the lock. But they were met by sniper fire each time they tried to insert the key into the lock." Marines in Fallujah learned that it was worth one's life to spend an extended period of time making a breach; that if a lock could not be knocked in with a couple of blows, perhaps a breaching charge was in order.

To cover their entry, the SAF raiders flooded the darkened corridor with tear gas, breached and entered. The resourceful Abu Sayyaf rushed forward in the murk to grapple with the SAF, in the hopes of seizing more weapons. But the SAF had been trained to work in pairs and the grapplers were repelled. To complicate matters for the assault team, the Abu Sayyaf locked up regular prisoners in adjacent cells and had piled up flammable materials which they set ablaze in the corridors, so the flames and smoke would lay down a protective curtain. It was in this confused, darkened and choking atmosphere that Commanders Kosovo, Robot and Global conducted their last resistance. 'Kosovo' was apparently one of the grapplers and shot a raider in the face before being gunned down. 'Global' died in a fighting retreat to the third floor. How 'Robot' met his end is unknown.

The left-wing Philippine Inquirer, attempting to sound a note of seemingly sweet reason, says:

Their (the Abu Sayyaf ) deaths also mean that they have escaped trial and, more importantly, put any information that they possessed irretrievably beyond the government's reach. ... And the shrugging continued when other things were pointed out, such as the dangers posed by having firearm-bearing guards in close proximity to the Abu Sayyaf prisoners. ... Human rights activists, for one, have been battling for years against overcrowding in our jails, which puts underage offenders in close proximity to hardened criminals, and which makes it even more difficult to properly isolate dangerous inmates such as captured members of the Abu Sayyaf. ... The fact is that the Abu Sayyaf won yet another round against the government. Its captured members died with guns blazing, drawing the world's attention to their cause and their refusal to let their detention circumscribe their actions.

For another view we must turn to Max Soliven.

When the gunsmoke – and tear gas – cleared, the most notorious kidnappers-killers-and-bombers were dead: the bully Alhamzer Manatad Limbong, alias Bro. "Kosovo" who had been identified by Gracia Burnham as one of their cruel kidnappers, suspected of masterminding the SuperFerry 14 bombing which killed 110 helpless passengers, and triggered off the motorbike "bomb" in Magutay, Zamboanga City, which killed US M/Sgt. Mark Jackson, and seriously wounded US Capt. Mike Hummel in October 2002; Ghalib Andang, alias Commander "Robot" who had led the gang which kidnapped foreign tourists and Filipinos from the Malaysian tourist isle of Sipadan, and raped women hostages repeatedly, humiliating the Estrada government for months and collecting millions of dollars in ransom; and Nadzmi Sabdullah, alias Commander "Global", the noisy spokesman of the Sipadan kidnap caper. Also slain was ASG detainee Hasbi Dais alias Lando, who had conducted the Monday "negotiations" and rejected all the government’s calls for the group’s peaceful surrender.