Monday, January 22, 2007

Philippine reward

The U.S. ambassador to the Philippines is reviewing the circumstances that led to the killings of two top terrorist leaders to determine how to disburse up to $10 million in reward money.

Ambassador Kristie A. Kenney has praised the Philippine military for operations that led to the deaths of Khadaffy Janjalani, leader of the deadly Abu Sayyaf terrorist organization, and Abu Sulaiman, one of his top lieutenants. Philippine authorities confirmed their identities last month through forensic tests on remains found on the island of Jolo in Sulu province.

The ambassador yesterday told Agence France-Presse news agency that relations between the United States and the Philippines are “stronger than ever” because of the counterterrorist operations.

“These people are on the FBI’s most-wanted list,” she said. “They have killed Filipinos [and] Americans. I feel very strongly that we must congratulate the armed forces of the Philippines. They are dedicated and doing a wonderful job of keeping the people safe.”

Last week, the ambassador applauded the Philippine military in a statement posted on the U.S. Embassy Web site (

“This is a major step forward in the fight against terrorism in the Philippines and in the global war on terror,” she said.

“The death of Khadaffy Janjalani is an important and positive step forward in the ultimate goal of eliminating the ruthless and dangerous Abu Sayyaf group and in destroying its links with international terrorist groups.”

Earlier last week, the ambassador held a press conference with Gen. Hermogenes Esperon, chief of staff of the Philippine military, and praised the armed forces as a “tremendous fighting force.”

“They are doing extraordinary things in capturing some of the world’s most deadly terrorists,” she added.

The ambassador said the embassy and the Philippine government will be consulting about the payment of the reward money.

Relations had been tense between the two nations since a U.S. Marine was sentenced to 40 years in prison for raping a Filipina. He was later released into U.S. custody while waiting for his appeal.

Taliban’s last stand?

The U.S. ambassador to Afghanistan yesterday said he thinks the brutal Taliban, overthrown by the U.S.-led coalition in 2001, is desperate in its fight to regain power, as NATO reinforces its troops and the Afghan military increases its strength.

“I believe the Taliban now feel that time is not on their side, that there’s an expansion of the army, there’s an expansion of NATO, there is an expansion of government authority,” Ambassador Ronald Neumann told reporters.

He predicted heavy fighting in the spring but expressed optimism in Afghanistan’s ability to defeat the insurgents.

“Yes, I do expect there will be some heavy fighting in the spring, both in the south and the east,” he said. “I think the Taliban has to try to fight, and therefore it will.”

With 40,000 foreign troops in Afghanistan, Mr. Neumann said, “I believe that we will be strong and be pushing them back.” About half of the troops are Americans.

‘Complete failure’

Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert, much criticized for the botched invasion of Lebanon last year, now holds the unfortunate title of “complete failure” on the Google Internet search engine.

A right-wing Israeli blogger who dislikes the prime minister organized a “Google bomb” by urging his readers to link the Hebrew words “kishalon charutz” (complete failure) to Mr. Olmert’s biography, according to the Web site of the Israeli newspaper Yediot Ahronot.

Web pranksters last year “Google-bombed” President Bush with a similar tactic. Typing “miserable failure” on Google brings up Mr. Bush’s biography.

• Call Embassy Row at 202/636-3297, fax 202/832-7278 or e-mail jmorrison@

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