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Reli L. German: The end for Hapilon; a failure of intelligence


It seems that even his relatives and province mates in Basilan are not mourning the fate that befell Abu Sayyaf leader Isnilon Hapilon who, together with the remaining head of the Maute group, Omar Maute, met his deserved end last week at the hands of Army scout rangers.

“He brought us, his law-abiding relatives, shame and scandal through these years,’’ a first cousin who is a government career service official, reportedly intoned. In Basilan, Hapilon’s death was regarded as providential for his relatives, an answered prayer, something they had long wished for. Religious leaders and officials and residents of Marawi also expressed relief upon hearing of his death.

These reactions may be understandable considering the deaths, the plunder and rapes, the massive destruction and the severe financial and material losses that his band of ISIS terrorists inflicted upon the city and their fellow Muslims.

But if there’s one matter that the military and the police should note about the Marawi siege, it’s the need to shore up and strengthen their intelligence gathering network. Marawi clearly demonstrated a failure of intelligence on their part, which resulted in so many lives lost, a fact that they honestly acknowledged.

The Marawi siege began May 23 after Abu Sayyaf and Maute gunmen battled policemen who were arresting Hapilon. Although Hapilon and Maute were killed last Monday, the fight against the jihadists still raged on, with at least 20 more of them killed before the week ended, reportedly including Mahmud Ahmad, alias Abu Handzalah, the Malaysian financier and recruiter of foreign fighters.

The terrorist takeover of Marawi was not a spur-of-the moment reaction of the jihadists to the attempted arrest of Hapilon. This move must have taken months of planning and preparation. How else could you explain their ability to withstand five full months of massive bombings and an unrelenting assault by combined forces of the military and the police? In fact, Lt. Gen. Carlito Galvez, who heads the Western Mindanao Command, had expressed the hope that they would be able to formally declare the end of hostilities by last Sunday, October 22.

Authorities should now look into the possible complicity and connivance of certain people or groups in Marawi. It could turn out that those who were complicit in the terrorists’ plan would include some local officials, barangay leaders, city residents and even members of the police and the military.

How could the terrorists be able to dig tunnels, stockpile hundreds of powerful firearms, hoards of ammunition and explosives, plus food and other logistical needs without these people noticing this activity? And what about those foreign fighters from Malaysia, Indonesia and other countries who joined them? It’s incredible that the barangay officials and the residents in the immediate areas where the terrorists holed up were completely unaware of all the ongoing activities in their midst!.

But if it’s any consolation, failure of intelligence does happen to even the most sophisticated and the best military organizations in the world. Case in point: the October 4 ambush of US and Niger troops in a village of that African country was likwise attributed to ‘’a major intelligence failure’’ that cost the lives of four members of the famous Green Beret of the US Army. It was purportedly due to inadequate “intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance (ISR) scan” of the patrol area and an assessment that the troops were unlikely to encounter hostile forces.

Improving the intelligence service of our military and police is a must. The death of Hapilon and Maute does not mean the end of terrorism. Former Abu Sayyaf leader Abdurajik Janjalani was killed by the police in late 1998. He was succeeded by his younger brother, Khadaffy Janjalani, who was killed in 2006. But other militants took up their cause. As a matter of security, there is need for the intelligence community to identify and neutralize their probable successors [] [] [] [] [].