Edwin Angeles: The Spy Inside Abu Sayyaf
“Edwin was the first deep penetration agent of the military to the Abu Sayyaf. He was the one who actually introduced the idea of kidnapping as part of the fund-raising activities of the Abu Sayyaf,” — Arlyn de la Cruz (Reporter)
Summer 1992, The Philippine Government led by Fidel Ramos (Philippines President) had begun conducting open ended dialogue with the Islamic led political wing the Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF). The ground-breaking peace talks were the first time both parties had gone face to face, and spoke on ending the conflict which had besieged country for 20 years. The peace agreement however had some internal problems of its own, starting with implementing the peace agreement in its totality. As the talks were nearing an end to the conflict another organization began to conduct terrorist operations inside the country, and wanted to achieve a different goal altogether, a country led by the shariah. The group is named the Abu Sayyaf.
Abdurajak Abubakar Janjalani was a Sunni scholar who had spent years studying Islamic jurisprudence at the Umm Al-Qura University in Mecca. Janjalani had also witnessed in his early youth in Mindanao, the southern islands experienced the prejudices of the Muslim people by the socialist Philippines government. Janjalani had once fought along side Osama Bin Laden in Afghanistan during the Soviet invasion of the country in 1980. By 1984, he returned back to his homeland and there he would take his Wahhabi Islamic ideology and begin to lecture and teach at local madrassas. he was easily likable, socially astute and of course, a voracious reader and learned Sunni theology to further spread the Wahab ideology.
Janjalani had began teaching at madrassas by 1985 in towns located in the South of the country, towns like Basilan and nearby Zamboanga City in which had little to do with the government, which witnessed poverty and petty crime afflict the people there. In 1986 he would visit Pakistan, there he would meet with Abdul Rasul Sayyaf, leader of the Northern Alliance, and also one of the countries most respected venerable theologians. Janjalani returned to the Philippines to his home province of Basilan in 1990. By this time a notable Saudi had entered the country to step up businesses as a way of being legitimate money to help fund terrorist operations, Mohammad Jamal Khalifa, brother in law to Osama Bin Laden, had begun to open the International Islamic Relief Organization. Janjalani then began to construct an organization of his own, one in which will supplant the MNLF, as the defacto organization which will not only supplant the government but also implement “sharia” law for the whole of the country. the name of the group from the Arabic “Jama’at abu sayyaf” (father of the sayyaf) …Abu Sayyaf.
One of the groups earliest founding members was Ibrahim Yakub, who had his actual name hidden because he was also a member of the Philippines National Intelligence Coordinating Agency & National Bureau of Investigation, who had previously infiltrated the MNLF. His actual name, Edwin Angeles. Janjalani was primarily relying on Khalifa to fund the organization, but it needed independent resources, Angeles was considered head of the newly founded Islamist group’s head of security. It was Yakub’s idea that the group should start committing ransom kidnappings. The Philippines was still considered a high tourist attraction, especially those coming from the United Kingdom. In 1992, led by Yakub, the Abu Sayyaf kidnapped a local business-woman from Davao, an urban city located in Mindanao. According to Philippines journalist, Arlyn de la Cruz:
“Edwin was the first deep penetration agent of the military to the Abu Sayyaf. He was the one who actually introduced the idea of kidnapping as part of the fund-raising activities of the Abu Sayyaf.”
By 1994, the Abu Sayyaf were becoming noticed by the global media, as well as militants even from as far as Saudi Arabia. The group would conduct bombings of local Christian missionaries, businesses markets and also extortion, kidnappings and murders. Meanwhile all the groups activities were being recorded and closely monitored by Yakub (Angeles). Every ranking member from the top down were duly noted by Angeles remarkable intricate details. By 1994, the country would receive another notable visitor, this time to help train Abu Sayyaf in the field of bomb making, he was also involved in the 1993 WTC Bombing himself, Ramzi Yousef. Yakub himself would receive personal hands on training from Yousef. According to Angeles, another visitor would come to Cebu City, located in the South of the country, he would have a nickname “the farmer”, his actual name, Terry Nichols. Nicholas has a mail order wife, whose home was in Cebu City. On this visit in 1994, Angeles exclaims later to investigators that the man who went by “the farmer” went to see Ramzi Yousef. According to CTC chief Richard Clarke, this appeared to be the case.
“Could the al-Qa’ida explosives expert have been introduced to the angry American who proclaimed his hatred for the US government?” We do not know, despite some FBI investigation. We do know that Nichols’s bombs did not work before his Philippine stay and were deadly when he returned.” (Against All Enemies, Richard Clarke)
Ibrahim Yakub (Edwin Angeles) had participated in the group’s first ever media interview as well. Local Philippine reporter, Arlyn de la Cruz, would entertain this meeting. During the interview de la Cruz describes Angeles as a “good speaker, a good actor. He spoke like a Leftist leader espousing Fundamentalist principles. He was different from the leader of the Abu Sayyaf, Abdurajak Abubakar Janjalani, where Janjalani would be more affluent in theological debate, Angeles was more astute in the militant aspect. By February 1995, the Philippines Intelligence Agency as well as the Philippines military decided to end the covert operation involving Ibrahim Yakub. He was now Edwin Angeles. Even thou he was surprised about the abrupt ending of his operation, he would take part in a massive operation against one Abu Sayyaf base in Taglibi.
In 1996, Angeles would contact the same reporter who interviewed him in their first meeting in 1992, Arlyn De la Cruz. Who would state that Angeles wanted to show her that he was the primary head of the operation inside the Abu Sayyaf, The interview with Angeles was done inside the ABS-CBN newsroom.
“ He showed me identification cards with pictures issued to him by the Intelligence Command of the PNP. He showed me his mission orders and the license to carry for his caliber .45 pistol. The reason Edwin showed me all these was to convince me that he’s now really connected with the PNP-IC.
“Edwin too told stories to Senator Aquilino Pimentel Jr. and myself regarding alleged involvement of the CIA in the creation of the ASG. This information was part of an affidavit executed by Angeles in the law office of Senator Pimentel at the Golden Loop Tower in Pasig.”
Angeles wished to enter the Witness Protection Program, led by the National Bureau of Investigation. The story was now headlines in every major newspaper in the country. Abu Sayyaf immediately took notice and Angeles family were now primary targets for retaliation. Instead, the Justice Department decided to arrest Angeles and indict him for 54 counts of kidnapping with murder. The trial took place in the municipal court in Isabela, Basilan, where a court judge heard the case regarding Angeles and decided to acquit him of every charge. The reason? All of Angeles crimes were done in part while he was an undercover informant which were being funded by legitimate agencies of government.
On January 14 1999, while visiting a mosque in Isabela, Basilan. Angeles was with his his wife’s cousin, his wife El Mina, was expecting and was just leaving a nearby store to meet with Angeles when she heard multiple gunshots. Angeles was shot by two assailants, both men were witnessed by El Mina, whom Angeles called Yang. They fled immediately after shooting Angeles, who died in his wife’s arms without saying a single word. According to de la Cruz, the mystery surrounding Edwin Angeles will continue to puzzle her:
“ Was he an Abu Sayyaf turned government agent? Or a government agent turned Abu Sayyaf? Up to the end — Edwin was mysterious — as mysterious as his beginnings and contribution to a problem now called the Abu Sayyaf in Southern Philippines.”