9/11: My First and Last Interview with MILF Chairman Salamat Hashim


Twitter: @edd1819, Instagram: @bluestar0910, Facebook: SDN — Science, Digital & Current Affairs​ 

First and last interview with Ustadhz Salamat Hashim.
At left, the author, interviewing MILF Chairman Ustadhz Salamat Hashim. At right is Libya’s Ambassador to the Philippines Salem Adam.

Short link: https://wp.me/paaccn-czh

CAMP RAJAMUDAH, Buliok Complex, North Cotabato/Maguindanao (SDN) — Today (September 11, 2021) is the 20th year of the attacks on the United States in 2001 when 19 terrorists hijacked and commandeered four jumbo jets, kamikaze-like, and slammed two of them like missiles on the World Trade Center’s (WTC) Twin Towers in New York.

Last interview with MILF chairman

The third of the passenger jets the hijackers flew and diverted to the Pentagon not very far from Washington, DC, and the fourth crashed on a field in Massachusetts as passengers alerted by news reports on their phones counter-mutinied, fought their hijackers, resulting in the plane crashing down. American authorities surmised the terrorists in the fourth plane intended to crash either the White House or Capitol Hill, or Camp David, the presidential retreat house.

Incidentally, September 11, 2001 was my first-ever and last interview with the founding leader of the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF), Chairman Ustadhz Salamat Hashim. I believe that the interview here at Camp Rajamudah was also the last time Hashim was interviewed by a member of the news media (unless any journalist can show proof otherwise, I won’t mind being wrong).

The revered MILF founder, erstwhile vice chairman of Prof. Nur P. Misuari, founding leader and chairman of the then monolithic Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF). Hashim passed away on July 13, 2003 in Lanao del Sur, of illness and buried somewhere in the province.

His demise was believed factored in by his reported wounds sustained when the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) attacked Camp Rajamudah early morning during the celebration of Eid’l Adha (Feast of Sacrifice) on February 11, 2003. This journalist was in Makkah, Saudi Arabia, at the time to cover and perform the Hajj, the Islamic pilgrimage, when news of the Philippine government’s Eid attack on the orders of President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo broke.

Between my interview with Hashim and his passing I did not come across any news report of any news media member’s interview with him. Perhaps, he was already ill because it was whispered in Moro communities that he was wounded in the military’s bombing of Buliok Complex .

MILF Chairman Ustadhz Salamat Hashim serves his chicken adobo menu to his visitors.
MILF Chairman Ustadhz Salamat Hashim (second, right), and his visitors partaking of chicken ‘adobo’ the MILF founder cooked and served to Libyan Ambassador Salem Adam (second, left), MNLF-Executive Council of 15 Chairman Muslimin Sema (left), and Libya’s Filipino missionary Ustadhz Ahmad Nooh Darping. I took the historic photograph, after which I sat beside Sema and joined the little party. (All images credit to: SDN — Science and Digital News)

It was said that at the time of the attack the MILF chieftain was the imam leading the early morning Eid prayers. He was wounded in the first wave of bombs the government unleashed during an Islamic holiday.

Obviously, he was able to escape, nonetheless, taking refuge under the protection of his men in a Lanao del Sur community, where he was subsequently buried.

Into the lion’s den they went

On September 11, 2001 (I was already in Cotabato City then, a reporter for Manila Bulletin), a Learjet landed at the city’s Awang Airport, carrying from Manila presidential adviser Norberto Gonzalez and Ambassador Adam. MNLF-Executive Council of 15 Chairman Muslim G. Sema and Libya’s Filipino missionary Ustadhz Ahmad Nooh Darping were already in Cotabato City (they are city residents).

Their mission: to talk to the MILF Chairman and try to convince him to agree in helping  secure the release of several South Korean engineers kidnapped by the Pentagon Gang, a kidnap-for-ransom group operating in Central Mindanao. The Koreans were working on the Malitubog-Maridagao Irrigation Project straddling the provinces of North Cotabato and Maguindanao when kidnapped with ransom demand.

Darping informed me of the plan to travel by land to Camp Rajamudah of the party of Adam, that included Sema, Darping, and this pen pusher, and some escorts. (I am familiar with Darping, we used to travel to Tripoli when Libya was under United Nations sanctions regime.)

Gonzalez did not go with the group, he stayed behind at Awang Airport. For obvious reason, apparently.

The Arroyo administration was in a bind, especially so that the Pentagon Gang’s victims were foreigners. Rescuing them using the police or the military would endanger their lives. So, the Arroyo administration came up with the idea of getting the MILF’s assistance, apparently the safe route. (I wrote an article on this meeting for Manila Bulletin.)

I can’t remember the exact hour, but off the party of Adam traveled from Cotabato City to Buliok Complex. The travel also included a pump boat ride that sailed to Hashim’s and the MILF’s fortified camp.

After docking on a river’s bank on the other side, the party walked to the MILF camp, and proceeded the Hashim’s abode.

After the usual Islamic greetings and pleasantries, they held their meeting. A closed door meeting.

To be continued. (SDN)

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