Abu Sayyaf

Formed1991
DisbandedGroup is active.
First AttackApril 4, 1991: The ASG carried out a grenade attack on Zamboanga City, killing 2 evangelical Americans. (2 killed) [1]
Last AttackJune 22, 2013: Abu Sayyaf members kidnapped Al-Rashid Maha Rojas, a researcher at Western Mindanao State University from his residence in Zamboanga. After the alleged payment of ransom, Rojas was freed unharmed in Sulu province. (0 killed) [2]
UpdatedAugust 6, 2013

Narrative Summary

The Abu Sayyaf Group (ASG) is an Islamic separatist group based in the Southern Philippines. It seeks an independent Muslim homeland in the Bangsamoro region. The ASG has carried out high-profile assassinations and large-scale bombings to achieve this goal, developing a reputation as one of the most violent Islamic separatist groups in the Philippines.

The ASG was founded by Abdurajak Abubaker Janjalani, who was educated by the Islamic Tabligh, a fundamentalist organization funded by Pakistan and Saudi Arabia. Janjalani became radicalized after studying and traveling across the Muslim world.  He reportedly met with Osama bin Laden in 1988, after which he developed his mission to transform the southern Philippines into an Islamic state. [3]

 
After returning from the Middle East, Janjalani was able to recruit disappointed Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF) members, most of whom held more radical views on how to secure the Muslim state than their parent organization. [4] The ASG benefited from the dire economic conditions in the Philippines at the time, allowing the group to recruit new members who had relatively few alternatives.[5] 

The group turned to violence to gain recognition and has shown little inclination towards peaceful negotiations with the Philippine government.

Leadership

The group's leadership is currently fragmented, especially following the deaths of several of the group's key leaders in 2006-2007. Currently, it is unknown whether one key figure leads the ASG. Many of Abu Sayyaf's leaders, however, have extensive operational experience and carry out their own operations. [6] 

  


  1. Radulan Sahiron, also known as Commander Putol (Unknown to Unknown): Sahiron was the leader of the ASG until his reported murder in December 2008.[7]
  2. Isnilon Totoni Hapilon, also known as Abu Musab, Sol, Abu Tuan, Esnilon, Salahudin, and The Deputy (Unknown to Unknown): Hapilon was the second in command of the ASG. He is wanted for kidnapping and murder.[8]
  3. Abdul Basit Usman (Unknown to Unknown): Usman is an ASG bomb-making expert with a $1 million U.S. bounty. [9]
  4. Gumbahali Jumdail, also known as Doc Abu (Unknown to Unknown): Jumdail is a Filipino regional leader wanted for multiple kidnappings. [10]
  5. Abdul Basir Latip (Unknown to Unknown): Latip is a key leader of Abu Sayyaf who has linked the ASG to Al Qaeda, Jeemah Islamiah and other Islamic militant groups.[11]
  6. Abdurrajak Abubaker Janjalani (Unknown to 1998): Janjalani was the founder of the ASG. He was killed in a police shootout.[12]
  7. Galib Andang, also known as Commander Robot (Unknown to 2003): Andang was accused of leading the kidnapping of Western tourists and Asian workers in Malaysia in 2000. Three years later, Andang was captured in a gun battle.[13]
  8. Alhamser Limbong, also known as Commander Kosovo (Unknown to 2004): Limbong was involved in the kidnapping of Chinese, American and Filipino tourists on the island of Palawan. One of the American men who was kidnapped was later beheaded. He is also accused of bombing a ferry, killing 100 people.[14]
  9. Khadaffy Janjalani (Unknown to 2006): Janjalani was killed in a firefight.[15]
  10. Albader Parad (Unknown to 2010): Paras was the senior leader of the ASG and was killed by the Philippine military in 2010.[16]
  11. Yasser Igasan, also known as Kumander Diang (2007 to Unknown): Igasan is a current leader of the ASG. [17]

Ideology & Goals

The ASG is a violent Islamist group that is influenced by Sunni and Salafi ideologies. It aims to strengthen the southern, Muslim regions in the Philippines, essentially creating an Islamic state governed by Shariah law. 


The ASG also aims to expel the Christian migrant settlers from Luzon and the Visayas. Starting in the second decade of the 20th century, Christians began to immigrate to Mindano, Sulu, and Palawan because of the encouragement of the American colonial government and, later, of the Philippine Republic. [18]. They now constitute 75% of the total population of the aforementioned regions, to the chagrin of the ASG. As a result, the ASG has been taking measures to force these settlers out of the Southern Philippines, especially after the U.S. publicly announced its support for Israel and the Christian influence in Basilan and Sulu. [19]            

The ASG's broader aims include a global Islamic revolution, a goal influenced by their affiliation to Al Qaeda and Jemmah Islamiyah (JI). 

Name Changes

Janjalani named the group Abu Sayyaf in honor of Afghan resistance leader, Professor Abdul Rasul Sayyaf. [20]

Size Estimates

Designated/Listed

Abu Sayyaf is listed as a terrorist organization by a number of Western states, as well as on the United Nations' 1267 Committee's Consolidated List. [24] The United States government first listed Abu Sayyaf as a foreign terrorist organization on October 8, 1997. [25] The Australian government listed Abu Sayyaf as a terrorist group on November 14, 2002, and again in 2004, 2006, 2008, 2010, and 2013. [26] The ASG is also designated as a foreign terrorist group by Canada, the UK, and New Zealand. [27]


Resources

The ASG has minimal support from Muslim and Muslim clerics in its region, and thus receives very little funding from local charities. [28]  In recent years, financing from foreign sources has declined and the group has turned to financing through criminal means. Besides kidnapping, which has made the group infamous, ASG members also cultivate marijuana for sale, and extort money from local businesses.


The ASG has access to a wide array of weaponry. The Philippines serves as the major supply source and transit point for weapons and explosives provided to other radical Islamic groups in the region. The Infante Organization, a group that distributes drugs and smuggles weapons in the Philippines the U.S., is reported to have supplied weapons to Abu Sayyaf. Additionally, Victor Blout, a weapons supplier to Al Qaeda, has also supplied arms to the ASG.  [29]

External Influences

In addition to the ASG's financial link to Al Qaeda through Mohammad Jamal Khalifa, a wealthy Saudi businessman and the brother-in-law of Osama bin Laden who is notorious for funding Islamic extremist movements around the world, the ASG is also influenced by individuals and organizations in Malaysia and Libya. It was reported that Muammar el-Qaddafi, the ex-dictator of Libya, was a key intermediary in certain joint ASG-Libya hostage operations. While Libya has officially condemned Abu Sayyaf kidnappings, reports indicate that Libyan money gets channeled to Abu Sayyaf. [30]




Geographical Locations

The ASG originated in the southern region of the Philippines, specifically in the Basilan province. The group may have begun expanding into Malaysia and Indonesia. [31] Today, the ASG operates primarily in and around the Sulu Archipelago and on the Zamboanga Peninsula. The group also carries out certain operations in and around Manila. [32] In 2000, ASG members crossed the Sulu Sea to Malaysia to conduct a kidnapping. [33]  





Targets & Tactics

The ASG has been known to use terrorist tactics such as assassinations, armed attacks, beheadings, high-profile bombings, business and individual monetary extortions, murder, robbery, and kidnappings. [34] It has conducted a number of kidnappings in Basila, Sulu, Tawi-Tawi, and other areas of Western Mindanao. The ASG targets a large variety of individuals, including Westerners, wealthy foreigners, local politicians, and civilians. [35]

 





Political Activities

Since August 2000, the Philippine government has put constant military pressure on ASG, deploying more than 1,500 troops to combat the group. [36]

Major Attacks

  1. April 4, 1991: The group launched a grenade in Zamboanga City. (2 killed).[37]
  2. April 14, 1995: The ASG attacked the Christian town of Ipil. (53 killed, 30 hostages).[38]
  3. April 23, 2000: Abu Sayyaf gunmen attacked a Malaysian tourist resort in Sipadan. (0 killed, 21 hostages).[39]
  4. July 1, 2000: The group kidnapped Filipino Christian Evangelists in the jungle region of Jolo. (0 killed, 13 hostages).[40]
  5. May 28, 2001: Abu Sayyaf gunmen raided the Dos Palmas resort. (0 killed, 20 hostages).[41]
  6. June 5, 2001: Abu Sayyaf engaged in a gunfight with government forces in Mount Sinangkapan, Tubaran (Town). (16 killed, 44+ wounded).
  7. August 2002: The group kidnapped six Filipino Jehovah's Witnesses, and later beheaded two of the six. (2 killed).[42]
  8. March 4, 2003: A bomb exploded in a shed outside the main terminal building of the Davao International Airport. A spokesman for Abu Sayyaf called a national radio station the following day, claiming responsibility for the attack. It was the largest attack carried out by the ASG since they dedicated themselves to jihad in 2002, complimenting decades of highly successful kidnapping-for-ransom tactics. (21 killed, 148 wounded).[43]
  9. February 27, 2004: AA member of the Rajah Sulaiman Movement, an offshoot of the ASG, detonated a bomb placed in the lower decks of Superferry 14, a passenger ferry carrying 900 passengers out of Manila.  The ship sank and 116 people were killed, making the bombing the Philippines' deadliest terrorist attack and the world's deadliest terrorist attack at sea. Abu Sayyaf claimed responsibility for the attack, which was confirmed by a subsequent government investigation. (116 killed).[44]
  10. February 14, 2005: ASG operatives detonated bombs in Makati City, Davao City, and General Santos. They became known as the "Valentine's Day Bombings", due to the statement by ASG spokesmen Abu Solailman claiming that the bombs were a "gift" to then-President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo. (8 killed, 96 wounded).[45]
  11. February 7, 2006: ASG gunmen knocked on the door of a farm in Mindanao, asking whether the family inside was Christian or another religion. They killed six inside, including a 9-month old baby girl. (6 killed, 5 wounded).
  12. February 27, 2010: ASG militants killed one militiaman and 12 civilians in Maluso, Philippines. (13 killed).[46]
  13. December 5, 2011: The ASG kidnapped Warren Richard Rodwell, a 53 year old Australian retired soldier. Abu Sayyaf set the ransom at $2 million for his release in January 2012, but it is unknown whether the money has been transferred. As of June 2012, Rodwell's whereabouts have yet to be determined. (1 hostage).[47]
  14. February 1, 2012: The ASG kidnapped a Swiss national, a Dutch national, and their Filipino guide off of the Tawi-Tawi islands. (3 hostages).[48]
  15. July 10, 2012: Suspected ASG militants killed six rubber plantation workers after ambushing a vehicle in Tumahubong, Basilan. (6 killed).[49]
  16. July 28, 2012: ASG militants killed seven soldiers during an armed clash in Panglayahan, Jolo. (7 killed ).[50]

Relationships with Other Groups

The ASG and Al Qaeda have a well-publicized cooperative relationship. An AFP intelligence report in early 2000 reportedly asserted that Abu Sayyaf received training, arms, and other support from Al Qaeda and other Middle East terrorist groups. Ten AFP officers subsequently reported that “foreign Muslims” were training Abu Sayyaf to conduct urban terrorism operations in Mindanao. [51] [52]

Leaders of the MILF and MNLF have denied any supportive links with Abu Sayyaf. They have criticized Abu Sayyaf’s terrorist attacks against civilians. However, the U.S. and the Philippine government are still suspicious of links between the three groups, considering the proximity of MNLF and Abu Sayyaf units, as well as the overlapping memberships among the three groups. Abu Sayyaf was originally a splinter group of the MNLF that broke away in the early 1990s. [53] In addition, the tenuous relations between the Philippine government and the MILF and MNLF raise the strong possibility of shifting linkages among the three Muslim groups. [54] 

Community Relationships

Muslim civilians in Philippine cities Jolo and Basilan reportedly financially supported the ASG. However, many became disillusioned by the ASG's violent tactics and stopped donating. [55]

Other than private citizens with vested interests in the ASG, the Philippine public largely condemns the ASG's use of violence. The ASG is not backed by many mainstream Muslim leaders either. [56]

Other Key Characteristics & Events

Ethnicity: Filipino (Moros: Philippine Muslims), Malay, Tausug/Suluk


References

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