The Jakarta Post
Widespread panic over the fate of 10 Indonesian sailors taken hostage by the Abu Sayyaf terror group in Sulu Island, the Philippines, has upset Umar Patek, a convicted terrorist currently serving time at the Surabaya Class 1 Penitentiary in Porong, Sidoarjo, East Java.
Umar says he is ready to help the Indonesian government negotiate with Abu Sayyaf militants, Kompas.com reported. The convicted terrorist claims he is acquainted with the leaders of the Abu Sayyaf militant group.
At the peak of his career, Umar was elected a council member of Abu Sayyaf under the leadership of Khadaffy Janjalani for the period 2005-2006. Council leadership positions were held by senior leaders in Abu Sayyaf. The council determined the policy of the group.
The leaders of the Abu Sayyaf faction currently holding the 10 Indonesians hostage are Al-Habsi Misaya and Jim Dragon, alias Junior Lahab.
Umar claims that when he was still a member of the Abu Sayyaf group, Jim was considered a senior figure. Meanwhile, Al-Habsi was considered a junior member.
At that time, he elaborated, Al-Habsi’s duties were focused more on handling the documentation of hostage executions such as the execution of seven workers from the Philippines in 2007.
“I knew them well. Based on a sense of humanity, I offer myself to help the government. This is because the Indonesian government’s calls to the group, with support from the Philippine government, will not be effective. Abu Sayyaf considers the Philippines an enemy,” says Umar.
The terror convict further said that Indonesia had significant leverage in its bargaining position for the release of the 10 crewmen. This was because the hostages were from Indonesia, a Muslim country.
Moreover, Umar says Al-Habsi and Jim have soft personalities and are open to communicating with anyone. They are not affiliated with the Islamic State movement.
“The chance for success in the negotiation process is about 80 percent. It is likely that they don’t know the 10 hostages are from Indonesia,” says Umar, who once fought in 2005 against a joint Philippine and US task force in Talayan, Sulu Island, the Philippines.
In 2003, an Indonesian citizen, identified only as Zulkifli, was taken hostage by Abu Sayyaf and released shortly after the militant group learned that he was from Indonesia.
It was Umar that persuaded Abu Sayyaf leaders to release Mary Jean Lacaba, a member of the International Committee of the Red Cross. He asked Albader Parad, an Abu Sayyaf leader, to release Lacaba, saying that torturing women is forbidden under sharia. Lacaba was released in April 2009.
Umar was arrested in Abbottabad, Pakistan, on Jan. 25, 2011, four months before Al Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden was killed in a security operation conducted by US Special Forces in the same city.
Umar is serving a 20 year sentence due to his involvement in the first Bali bombing in 2002. After the Bali bombing, he flew to the Philippines to join with Abu Sayyaf. (ebf)
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