Since its inception in the early 1990s, the group has carried out bombings, kidnappings, assassinations, rapes and extortion in what they describe as their fight for an independent Islamic state in western Mindanao and the Sulu Archipelago with the stated goal of creating a pan-Islamic superstate across southeast Asia, spanning from east to west; the island of Mindanao, the Sulu Archipelago, the island of Borneo (Malaysia, Indonesia), the South China Sea, and the Malay Peninsula (Peninsular Malaysia, Thailand and Myanmar). The Abu Sayyaf Group seeks a 13 province autonomous region, free from the predominately Catholic government of the Philippines.
Until his death in a gunbattle on September 4, 2006, Khadaffy Janjalani was considered the nominal leader of the group by the Armed Forces of the Philippines. His older brother Abdurajik Abubakar Janjalani, the founder of Abu Sayyaf, died in December 1998. Confirmation of Khadaffy's death was officially confirmed on January 20, 2007, through DNA analysis of both brother's remains. Both were natives of Isabela City, currently one of the smallest and poorest, or so-called "5th-class" cities of the Philippines. Located on the north of the island of Basilan, Isabela is also the capital of Basilan province, across the Basilan Strait from Zamboanga City. But Isabela City is administered under the Zamboanga Peninsula political region north of the island of Basilan, while the rest of the island province of Basilan is now (since 1996) governed as part of the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (ARMM) to the east.
Consequently, being on the social or political division line, Isabela City and Basilan island have seen some of the fiercest fighting between government troops and the Muslim separatist group Abu Sayyaf through the early 2000s.
The ASG primarily operates in the southern Philippines with members occasionally traveling to Manila. It is reported that ASG has begun expanding into neighbouring Malaysia and Indonesia by the early 2000s.
The ASG is the one of the smallest but strongest of the Islamic separatist groups in Mindanao. Some ASG members have allegedly studied or worked in Saudi Arabia and developed ties to mujahadeen while fighting and training in the war against the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan.
Abu Sayyaf is estimated to have a core membership of 200 with an extended membership of over 2000.The ASG's low numbers indicate a lack of support among the local population.
The group was originally not thought to receive funding from outside sources, but intelligence reports from the United States, Indonesia, and Australia have found intermittent ties to the Indonesian Jemaah Islamiyah terrorist group. The Philippine government considers ASG to be allied with Jemaah Islamiyah and notes that initial funding came from al-Qaeda through the brother-in-law of Osama bin Laden, Mohammed Jamal Khalifa, through Islamic charities in the region. Continuing ties to Islamist groups in the Middle East indicate that al-Qaeda may be continuing support.
The group obtains most of its financing through ransom and extortion. One report estimated its revenues from ransom payments in 2000 alone between $10 and $25 million. According to the State Department, it may also receive funding from radical Islamic benefactors in the Middle East and South Asia. "Libya was a conduit for ransoms paid to Abu Sayyaf and other Filipino Muslim groups...[Libya] also offered money for ‘livelihood projects’ in its role in the 2000 hostage negotiations...this raises the possibility that Libyan money gets channeled to Abu Sayyaf.".
Though Janjalani’s first recruits were dissidents from the Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF), radical Islamic groups in the Philippines, such as the separatist Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) and the MNLF, deny having links with Abu Sayyaf. Both distance themselves from ASG because of its attacks on civilians and its profiteering. The Philippine military, however, has claimed that elements of both groups provide support to Abu Sayyaf.
Abdurajik Abubakar Janjalani, the older brother of Khadaffy Janjalani, had been a teacher from Basilan, who later studied Islamic theology and Arabic in Libya, Syria and Saudi Arabia during the 1980s. Abdurajik then went to Afghanistan to fight against the Soviet Union and Afghan Marxist government in the Soviet war in Afghanistan. During that time, he is alleged to have met Osama Bin Laden, and been given $6 million to establish a more Islamic splinter group of the MNLF in the southern Philippines, made up of members of the extant MNLF.
By then, as a political solution in the southern Philippines, ARMM had been created, in 1989.
When Abdurajik Janjalani returned home to Basilan island in 1990, he gathered radical members of the old MNLF who wanted to resume armed struggle for an independent Islamic state and in 1991 founded Abu Sayyaf Group, named after his own alias, which was Abu Sayyaf.
By 1995 Abu Sayyaf was active in large scale bombings and attacks in the Philippines. Abu Sayyaf's first large-scale action was the beachhead assault on the town of Ipil in Mindanao in April 1995. This year also marked the escape of 20 year-old Khadaffy Janjalani from Camp Crame in Manila along with another member named Jovenal Bruno.
On December 18, 1998 the founding older brother Abdurajik Janjalani was killed in a firefight with the Philippine National Police on Basilan Island. He is thought to have been about age 39 at the time of his death. The death of Aburajik Abubakar Janjalani marked a turning point in ASG operations, shifting from its ideological focus to more general kidnappings, murders and robberies, as the younger brother Khadaffy Janjalani then rose to succeed Aburajik.
The 23 year-old Khadaffy Janjalani then took power of one of Abu Sayyaf's factions in an internecine struggle. He then worked to consolidate his power within Abu Sayyaf, causing the group to appear inactive for a period. After Janjalani's supremacy was secured, Abu Sayyaf began a new tactic, as they proceeded to take hostages.
The group's motive for kidnapping became more financial and less religious during the period of Khadaffy's leadership, according to locals in the areas associated with Abu Sayyaf. The hostage money is probably the method of financing of the group. The group expanded its operations to Malaysia in 2000 when it abducted foreigners from two different resorts. This action was condemned by many parties including Muslim government such as Libyan and Malaysia. It was also responsible for the kidnapping and murder of more than 30 foreigners and Christian clerics and lay-workers, including Martin and Gracia Burnham.
A commander named Abu Sabaya was killed in 2002 while trying to evade forces.
Galib Andang, aka Commander Robot, was captured in Sulu in December 2003.
A blast at a military base on Jolo island on February 18, 2006 was blamed on Abu Sayyaf by Brig. General Alexander Aleo, an Army officer.
Khadaffy Janjalani was indicted in the United States District Court for the District of Columbia for his alleged involvement in terrorist acts, including hostage taking by Abu Sayyaf and murder, against United States nationals and other foreign nationals in and around the Republic of the Philippines.
Consequently on February 24, 2006, Janjalani was among six fugitives in the second and most recent group of indicted fugitives to be added to the FBI Most Wanted Terrorists list along with two fellow members of Abu Sayyaf, Isnilon Totoni Hapilon and Jainal Antel Sali, Jr.
On December 13, 2006, it was reported that Abu Sayyaf may have been planning attacks during the ASEAN summit in the Philippines. The group was reported to have been training alongside Jemaah Islamiyah militants. The plot was reported to have involved detonating a car bomb in the town of Cebu where the summit was scheduled to take place.
On December 27, 2006, the Philippine military reported that Janjalani's remains had been recovered near Patikul, on Jolo Island, southern Philippines, and that DNA tests had been ordered to confirm the discovery. He was allegedly shot in the neck in an encounter with government troops on September on Luba Hills, Patikul town, Sulu Island.
Jainal Antel Sali, Jr. (aka Abu Solaiman) was killed by government troops on January 16, 2007.
According to Philippine military sources, the hostages are being held in Jolo, a town located in a remote province named Sulu in the southern Philippines where the Abu Sayyaf is based. The area is less than one hour away from Sipadan by high-speed boat.
Meanwhile, the rebels are fighting Philippine government troops who are trying to free 27 other hostages kidnapped five weeks ago. The rebels have beheaded two of the adult hostages and are threatening to kill five more if government troops do not withdraw
The Abu Sayyaf has demanded the release of various Muslim terrorists including Ramzi Yousef, who was convicted of masterminding the bombing the World Trade Center in 1993.
Few days after the abduction, Malaysia police chief, Norian Mai, stated that several Malaysians have been arrested on charges of helping gunmen.
More than 12 locals have been detained and police stated that more might be arrested as their investigation continues into the kidnapping of five tourists and resort staff.
Police stated that some of the arrested were former employees of the Sipadan resort who have strong ties with the Philippine fishing community, however, Malaysian tourism industry officials have denied the reports.
Jeffrey Schilling, an American citizen and Muslim convert, was held by Abu Sayyaf for 8 months after being captured whilst visiting a terrorist camp with his wife, Ivy Osani. Abu Sayyaf demanded a $10 million dollar ransom for his release, but Schilling escaped after more than 7 months and was picked up by the Philippine Marines Corps on the 12 April 2001. Many commentators have been critical of Schilling, who had reportedly walked into the camp. Mr. Schilling claims to have been invited, through a relative of his wife who was a member of Abu Sayyaf.
On May 27, 2001, an Abu Sayyaf raid kidnapped about 20 people from Dos Palmas, an expensive resort in Honda Bay, to the north of Puerto Princesa City on the island of Palawan, which had been "considered completely safe". The most "valuable" of the hostages were three Americans - Martin and Gracia Burnham (a missionary couple) and Guillermo Sobero (a Peruvian-American tourist who was later brutally murdered by Abu Sayyaf) for whom Abu Sayyaf demanded $1 million in ransom. The hostages and hostage-takers then returned hundreds of miles back across the Sulu Sea to Abu Sayyaf's home turf on Mindanao island.
According to author Mark Bowden, the head of the raid was Aldam Tilao, who called himself Abu Sabaya ("Bearer of Captives"), and who, out of character for an Islamic leader, wore "a single hoop earring and Oakley sunglasses."
According to Gracia Burnham, Tilao told her husband "to identify his kidnappers" to authorities "as `the Osama bin Laden Group,` but Burnham was unfamiliar with that name and stuck with" Abu Sayyaf. After returning to Mindanao, Abu Sayyaf operatives conducted numerous raids, "including one at a coconut plantation called Golden Harvest; they took about 15 people captive there and later used bolo knives to hack the heads off two men. The number of hostages waxed and waned as some were ransomed and released, new ones were taken, and others were killed.".
On 7 June 2002, about a year after the raid, Philippine army troops attempted a rescue operation in which two of the three hostages held were killed - Martin Burnham and a Filipino nurse Ediborah Yap - the remaining hostage wounded, and the hostage takers escaped.
In July 2004, Gracia Burnham testified at a trial of eight Abu Sayyaf member and identified six out of the suspects as being her erstwhile captors, including o Alhamzer Limbong alias Kosovo, Abdul Azan Diamla, Abu Khari Moctar, Bas Ishmael, Alzen Jandul and Dazid Baize.
"The eight suspects sat silently during her three-hour testimony, separated from her by a wooden grill. They face the death sentence if found guilty of kidnapping for ransom. The trial began this year and is not expected to end for several months.
Alhamzer Limbong was later killed in a prison uprising.
Gracia Burnham has caused controversy since returning to the US, by claiming that Philippine military officials were colluding with her captors. She made the claim in a book about her experiences called In the Presence of My Enemies In it she complains the Armed Forces of the Philippines "didn't pursue us ... "As time went on, we noticed that they never pursued us."
On that day, the 10,192 ton ferry was sailing out of Manila, with about 900 passengers and crew. A television set filled with 8 lb (4 kg) of TNT had been placed on board. 90 minutes out of port, the bomb exploded. 63 people were killed immediately, and 53 were missing and presumed dead.
Despite claims from terrorist groups, the blast was initially thought to have been an accident, caused by a gas explosion. But after divers righted the ferry five months after it sunk, they found evidence of a bomb blast. Also, a man named Redendo Cain Dellosa admitted to planting the bomb on board for the Abu Sayyaf guerrilla group.
President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo announced on October 11, 2004, that investigators had concluded the explosion was caused by a bomb. She said six suspects had been arrested in connection with the bombing and that the masterminds, Khadaffy Janjalani and Abu Sulaiman, were still at large. It was believed that Abu Sayyaf bombed Superferry 14 because the company that owned it, WG&A, did not comply with an Abu Sayyaf letter demanding protection money.
|List of attacks attributed to Abu Sayyaf|
|External links — References|
Most of Abu Sayyaf victims have been Filipinos. However, the group has also targeted Western foreigners for kidnapping because of the larger potential ransom payments, and Americans for ideological reasons. Abu Sayyaf kidnapped an American Bible translator on a southern Philippine island in 1993. In 2000, Abu Sayyaf captured an American Muslim visiting Jolo Island and demanded that the United States release Sheikh Omar Abdel Rahman and Ramzi Yousef, who were jailed for their involvement in the 1993 World Trade Center bombing. “We have been trying hard to get an American because they may think we are afraid of them,” a spokesman for Abu Sayyaf said. “We want to fight the American people.”
these jihadists to be shallow, even adolescent, in their faith. Unfamiliar with the Koran, the outlaws had only a sketchy notion of Islam, which they saw as a set of behavioral rules, to be violated when it suited them. Kidnapping, murder, and theft were justified by their special status as `holy warriors`. One by one they sexually appropriated several of the women captives, claiming them as `wives`.
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