- The Washington Times - Saturday, February 23, 2002

CEBU, Philippines The airing of a videotape purporting to show Abu Sayyaf guerrillas beheading a Philippine soldier has raised howls of protest here and highlighted the dangers facing the recently deployed U.S. Special Forces.
The two-hour video, broadcast earlier this week, shows Abu Sayyaf bandits interrogating a young soldier who is forced to kneel on the ground with his hands tied behind his back. The shirtless infantryman is told to pray just before a man walks up from behind, machete in hand, and with one forceful swipe lops off the soldier's head.
Al Qaeda-linked Abu Sayyaf, the group that beheaded one American hostage in June and is still holding two other Americans, as well as a Philippine nurse, has a long history of decapitating its captives.
The release of the 1995 tape was roundly criticized by nationalist groups opposed to ongoing joint military exercises between U.S. Special Forces and their Philippine counterparts on Basilan island, the Abu Sayyaf lair, in the far southwestern Philippines.
PeaceCamp, a coalition of groups opposed to the military exercises that got under way in earnest earlier this week, dismissed the airing of the tape as "tasteless."
"Any kind of violence is 'pornographic,'" Robert Reyes, a spokesman for the group, said at a press conference in Manila. "This video deserves a triple-X rating just as with movies depicting sex."
But a spokesman for Philippine President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo, a staunch ally of the U.S.-led coalition against terrorism, defended the broadcast.
"We want the public to see the real face of the enemy," said press undersecretary Roberto Capco.
The armed forces of the Philippines says the tape seized from the Abu Sayyaf shows the January 1995 executions of members of its 44th Infantry Battalion.
[Meanwhile, Basilan police provincial Director Bensali Javarani said a 28-year-old local resident surrendered to authorities, saying he was the man seen beheading the captured soldier in the 1995 video. He said he was kidnapped by the Abu Sayyaf and forced to commit the crime, Reuters news agency reported.]
In June, Abu Sayyaf rebels beheaded Californian Guillermo Sobero, who was taken hostage from the Dos Palmas resort on May 27, 2001. Two other Americans, Gracia and Martin Burnham, missionaries from Kansas, also were taken hostage during that raid and are in their ninth month of captivity.
About 80 U.S. soldiers are deployed in Basilan for the six-month war games, according to military officials.
[A U.S. Army helicopter participating in the exercises crashed into the sea early yesterday with 10 Americans aboard, a U.S. official said. Three bodies were recovered, AP reported.
[The MH-47E Chinook helicopter appeared to be burning when it went down, witnesses said, but U.S. and Philippine officials say it was not hit by rebel fire. It was carrying a crew of eight and two passengers.]
The U.S. troops are officially here as advisers, but they are armed and can fire back if attacked.
On Tuesday, Philippine forces on Tinggolan island, about four miles off the coast of Basilan, engaged Abu Sayyaf fighters in a battle that wounded two Philippine soldiers. Americans, however, were not on the scene during the firefight.
The Abu Sayyaf was founded more than a decade ago by the now-deceased Abdurajak Janjalani, a Philippine Muslim who was educated in the Middle East and who fought in Afghanistan with many Arab nationals who later formed the core of al Qaeda, Osama bin Laden's terror network. Abu Sayyaf had early financing from Jamal Mohammed Khalifa, a brother-in-law of bin Laden, according to military-intelligence sources here.
The group also had contacts with Ramzi Ahmed Yousef, the now-jailed mastermind of the 1993 bombing of the World Trade Center in New York.


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