DAVAO CITY — The lawyer of executed Oklahoma City bomber Timothy McVeigh has provided victims of the tragedy with a report on an interrogation linking an American trader with rightwing Americans, agents of Iraq, Osama bin Laden and the Abu Sayyaf Group (ASG).
However, the most striking thing about the transcript is that it shows Philippine police have long been aware of operational ties between local Islamic radicals and rightwing foreigners.
Why the strange alliance exists remains a puzzle to police and military intelligence agents. A senior counter-terrorist expert says commerce and short-term goals could account for the unusual ties. "Eventually, they'll be killing each other. But for now, they seem to be working together."
US Federal agents ignored evidence of these rightwing/Islamic links in the aftermath of the April 1995 bombing of the Murrah Federal Building. In the end, they succeeded in pinning the blame solely on McVeigh and his pal, Terry Nichols, who was married to Filipino women, one of them the daughter of Cebuano cop Eduardo Torres.
The suit filed by the Washington DC-based Judicial Watch on behalf of the victims of the 1995 blast has unearthed evidence earlier disallowed in the McVeigh trial. The victims also allege a federal cover-up of Iraqi involvement though the reason remains unclear.
McVeigh's lawyer, Stephen Jones, provided the new plaintiffs with a report on the 'soft interrogation' of slain ASG co-founder and government deep cover agent, Edwin Angeles. The Manila Times obtained a copy of the document.
The report names John Lepney, an import/export trader, as among those who met in 1992 and 1993 with Angeles, Ramsey Yousef, McVeigh accomplice Terry Nichols, and some unnamed Iraqis, in a Muslim ghetto in Tibongco, this city. The meeting took place just months prior to the Oklahoma City bombing.
Series of meetings
The Angeles interrogation transcript dates back to 1996. It shows the ASG officer talking with an official of the Philippine National Police and another from the National Bureau of Investigation (NBI). Also present were two lawyers hired by Jones to witness the interrogation. The Manila Times was requested to withhold identities of the two lawyers and the two officials pending the Washington trial.
The report pictured Angeles as eager to talk, almost garrulous, offering information on mail-order brides and terrorists. It was the police officer who showed Angeles a photo album of alleged mail-order bride facilitators.
The Abu Sayyaf leader leafed through and pointed out one of the men. In the vernacular, he said, "This man I know, this is John Lepney." He said the American lived in Davao City and was known to import appliances and electronics. Angeles knew Lepney enough to join him in massage sessions at the Plaza Roman, also in this city.
Other meetings, however, were not so innocent. Among Angeles and Lepney's companions in subsequent gatherings were Nichols and Abdul Basis — who would later be known as Ramzi Yousef, the convicted mastermind of the first World Trade Center bombing.
At a meeting in the vicinity of the Del Monte labeling factory here, they were joined by Wali Khan, a Jordanian pilot who would later be arrested in Malaysia, and Abdul Hakim Murad, Yousef's co-accused in the World Trade Center blast.
Angeles did not state in the interrogation what the meeting was about, but mentioned that Nichols had passed himself as a farmer. He also volunteered having stayed for at least eight months in Tibongco.
An intelligence source here told The Manila Times, "It is strange that people like Nichols, and this Lepney would go to that part of Tibongco. At that time it was a stronghold of Muslim separatists. They must have had serious business there for them to take the risk, even if they were accompanied by people like Angeles."
Robert Bickel, senior investigator for the law firm of John Michael Johnston in Oklahoma City, and the representative firm Judicial Watch in Washington, DC, said the reason for the new evidence is that only certain parts of Angeles' statements were allowed as evidence during the McVeigh and Nichols trials.
"Jones filed objections to the motions to allow the statement but to no avail. That is why we're only hearing about Lepney now," Bickel said in a telephone interview.
The Philippine intelligence source told The Times, that cops then were interested in knowing who bankrolled Nichols, a big spender who did not have any clear source of income. It was not clear, however, why no cop had interviewed Lepney if they were really interested in him.
"We have to remember that Nichols had no gainful employment after his 1989 hardship discharge from the US Army. He was nothing but a farm worker who could never afford the trips to the Philippines that he made from 1990 to 1994," the source said.
The same source also noted that Marife Nichols went to the United States supposedly to join her husband in 1994, carrying with her $4,000 in cash, and from between $10,000 to $18,000 in gold coins.
Nichols left his estranged wife, Lana Padilla with at least $20,000 in cash and up to $100,000 in gold and silver before he made his last trip to the Philippines in 1994, just months before the Oklahoma City bombing.
"Lepney appears to be the guy to find. More interesting, is the fact that the prosecution was adamant in keeping the Angeles statement out of evidence. The reason for it was the absence of a warm body. That still doesn't hold water today," Bickel told The Times.
The Times was able to confirm that Lepney did indeed reside and do business in Davao City during 1990 to 1996. "He would come in often. He did enjoy Tanduay and Coke, and he loved kinilaw. When he became drunk he would many times brag about his adventures with Moro rebels, but most of us just ignored him," says a popular bar owner who has asked to remain anonymous.
Lepney's present whereabouts, or where he exactly did business in this city are both unknown at this time
April 19, 2002, Manila Times, "Deathbed" Confession Transcript: Elmina Abdul, by Dorian Zumel, News Correspondent,
-- World Exclusive
The following interview with ELMINA ABDUL, widow of EDWIN ANGELES, one of the co-founders of the ABU SAYYAF GROUP (ASG), and deep cover agent for the Defense Intelligence Group (DIG) of the Department of National Defense (DND), of the Republic of the Philippines, was taken on March 10, 2002, in the presence of CHRISTOPHER M. PUNO, Information Officer of the Province of Basilan, at BASCOM Hospital, in the general ward.
TRANSLATED TRANSCRIPT OF INTERVIEW WITH ELMINA ABDUL, WIDOW TO EDWIN ANGELES TAKEN AT BASILAN COMMUNITY HOSPITAL GENERAL WARD ISABELA CITY, PROVINCE OF BASILAN REPUBLIC OF THE PHILIPPINES BY DORIAN ZUMEL SICAT NEWS CORRESPONDENT MANILA TIMES, OMEGA NEWS SERVICE (USA)
(After introduction to ELMINA ABDUL by Provincial Information Officer Christopher Puno)
NOTE: I interviewed ELMINA in Tagalog, she answered me in Chavacano and Cebuano, two of the local dialects spoken in Basilan. She did not speak in the indigenous dialect because she knew that I do not speak or understand that dialect.
DZS: Good morning Ms. Angeles
DZS: How are you feeling this morning?
EA: Not very well.
DZS: Do you feel like talking with me?
EA: Yes, but not so long. I am tired.
DZS: I will try to be as short as possible. Did Chris tell you what I am here to talk to you about?
EA: Yes. And I am the one who asked him to look for you after I was told that you are interested in the truth about my husband.
DZS: Good. Okay. You are not Edwin's first wife, is that true?
EA: Yes. I am his third wife. For Muslim men, they can have even four wives, if each of the other ones approve.
DZS: How, when and where did you meet Edwin?
EA: We met when he was in the Provincial Jail here in Isabela, in 1995. I was then working for the government radio station, dxOS (Philippine Information Agency) PIA.
DZS: That was after his capture?
DZS: When did you marry him?
EA: In 1997.
DZS: I am going to ask you some very sensitive questions now. Is that all right with you?
EA: Yes. I want to tell the truth of what I know of my late husband.
DZS: Did you know that he was one of those who founded the ASG, along with the late Abdurajak Abubakar Janjalani, in 1991?
EA: Yes. I know also why he was one of them.
DZS: Can you tell me why?
EA: Yes, I want to tell you why. I want now to tell the truth about my husband. I will die soon. I want you to know the truth. Will you write the truth, Mr. Sicat?
DZS: Yes. I will. I promise.
EA: You are not afraid?
DZS: More than you know, Mrs. Angeles.
EA: Good. Maybe you will stay alive and safe because of your fear. I will tell you that Edwin was ordered to do that.
DZS: Can you explain please.
EA: He was what they call a deep penetration agent or DPA.
DZS: Can you explain please?
EA: As I told you, he was given orders.
DZS: By whom?
EA: Some very powerful men in the DND.
DZS: Did he tell you why?
EA: No. Only that he was ordered to help to organize the ASG and to report all developments.
DZS: Did he tell you who it was?
EA: Not by names. But he told my only at the highest levels.
DZS: Did he ever tell you about his activities in the ASG before he met you?
EA: He told me everything. I do not believe that he would hide anything from me when we were talking alone.
DZS: Please do not be offended, but how do you know that?
EA: Not only because I was his wife, but because he knew that he would soon be killed. He wanted me to know everything so that if anything happened to him I could tell others.
DZS: Do you want to stop now?
EA: No. More water please.
DZS: Can I ask you about some things that happened back in the mid-90s? 1993, 1994?
EA: Yes. I will try to answer what you ask.
DZS: Did he ever talk to you about meetings with Arabs or Americans?
EA: Yes, once he had met with some Arabs and Americans in 1994, in Davao (City), or General Santos (City).
DZS: Did he tell you who they were?
EA: Does the name Ramsey Yousef mean something to you Mr. Sicat?
DZS: Ahmad Hassim. Does that mean something to you?
EA: He had met with them. And an American who he called Terry or the Farmer, and another American whom he did not name.
DZS: Was the American he named as Terry, Terry Nichols?
EA: He did not mention the surname. Only Terry.
DZS: Did he tell you why and how many times they had met?
EA: They met almost every day for one week. They met in an empty bodega (warehouse). They talked about bombings. They mentioned bombing government buildings in San Francisco, Saint Louis and in Oklahoma. The Americans wanted instructions how to make and to explode bombs. He (Edwin) told me that Janjalani was very interested in paying them much money to explode the buildings. The money was coming from Yousef and the other Arab.
DZS: Did he tell you when the bombs would explode; when they exploded?
EA: He told me that the Americans exploded one bomb in Oklahoma in 1995, after he was arrested and after we first met.
DZS: Did he ever tell you who was supplying the money for the bombing of the building, I mean who Yousef was working with or for?
EA: Mr. Sicat, you are the mediaman. Do you not know that Yousef was representing Iraq and Saddam Hussein? Do you not know that?
DZS: Did Edwin tell you that?
EA: Not only Edwin, but others that were close to us, before he was killed. One time, a soldier (Philippine Army) and Edwin were talking secretly. I was there because Edwin demanded. The soldier ordered Edwin never to tell anybody about the Iraqis.
DZS: Did you ever see that soldier before or after that time?
EA: Only two times before. He was the one who would talk to him for information.
DZS: Mrs. Angeles, do you know who killed your husband, Edwin?
EA: The ones who used him and then betrayed him, Mr. Sicat. (She grows visibly weaker). I want to rest now.
DZS: I understand. I'll let you rest now. Thank you so much, Mrs. Angeles. You have told me so much. I will try to see you tomorrow if you are up to it.
NOTE: I was not able to speak with ELMINA again. She became too weak and incoherent the following day. A few days later, the doctors had diagnosed that she was terminal. She needed to be transferred to Davao City to the Regional Hospital (government) for treatment. A few days later, while I was in Davao, arranging for her admission to the Regional Hospital, Chris told me that she could no longer be moved. She would die in transit. Since Muslims require burial within 24 hours of death, I understood the reasoning. The following day, Chris contacted me that ELMINA ABDUL, widow to EDWIN ANGELES (killed by unknown assailants in 1998), died in the pre-dawn hours Saturday March 30. She was the last one to talk with her husband before he was killed. I was the last and only reporter to talk with her about her husband before she died.
(sgd) DORIAN ZUMEL SICAT
Manila Times /Omega News Service (USA)
Investigative Liaison to Law Office of John Michael Johnston
Robert Bickel, Sr.
Senior Investigator and Legal Analyst
Senior Investigator and Legal Analyst
Law offices of John Michael Johnston
Elmina Abdul Angeles Statement