Abu Sayyaf Group

The Abu Sayyaf Group (ASG) is an Islamic separatist organization operating in the southern Philippines.

Key Statistics

1991 First Recorded Activity
1991 First Attack
2018 Profile Last Updated

Profile Contents

Overview

Narrative of the Organization's History

Organization

Leadership, Name Changes, Size Estimates, Resources, Geographic Locations

Strategy

Ideology, Aims, Political Activities, Targets, and Tactics

Major Attacks

First Attacks, Largest Attacks, Notable Attacks

Interactions

Foreign Designations and Listings, Community Relations, Relations with Other Groups, State Sponsors and External Influences

Maps

Mapping relationships with other militant groups over time

Contact MMP

Send a message to the Mapping Militants team.

Download Full Profile as PDF

Last Updated August 2018

How to Cite

Mapping Militant Organizations. “Abu Sayyaf Group”. Stanford University. Last modified August 2018. https://cisac.fsi.stanford.edu/mappingmilitants/profiles/abu-sayyaf-group

Organizational Overview

Formed:1991

Disbanded: Group is active.

First Attack: April 4, 1991: The ASG carried out a grenade attack on Zamboanga City, killing 2 evangelical Americans (2 killed, 0 wounded).[1]

Last Attack:  October 18, 2017: The ASG and supporting militant groups injured 10 soldiers in their last defenses against the Philippines military’s push to reclaim the city of Marawi, which had partially been controlled by the militant forces for 5 months (0 dead, 10 injured).[2]

 

Executive Summary

The Abu Sayyaf Group (ASG) is an Islamic separatist organization in the Philippines founded by Abdurajak Abubakar Janjalani in 1991. Heavily influenced by Al Qaeda in its early stages, the ASG started as a splinter group of the Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF) and seeks an independent Muslim state in the southern Philippines. In the early 2000s, the ASG attracted attention through high-profile bombings, assassinations, kidnappings, and attacks. The ASG renewed its campaign to establish an Islamic state in June 2017, when it gained control of parts of Marawi, a city in the southern Philippines.  It is regarded as the most dangerous militant group in the Philippines.

 

Group Narrative 

The Abu Sayyaf Group (ASG) is an Islamic separatist organization based in the southern Philippines. It seeks an independent Islamic state for the Filipino Muslim minority, known as the Moro people, who live primarily in the Philippines’ Mindanao region. The ASG has carried out several high-profile assassinations and bombings in pursuit of its goal, developing a reputation as the most violent Islamic separatist group in the Philippines. While many of the ASG’s activities center on Mindanao and the Sulu Archipelago in the predominantly Moro south, the ASG also engages less frequently in terrorist acts in the Filipino capital of Manila.[3]

The ASG formed in 1991 by Abdurajak Abubakar Janjalani, who had studied in the Middle East with the support of a fundamentalist organization called the Islamic Tabligh. Janjalani became radicalized after traveling in Saudi Arabia, Libya, and other Muslim countries. While studying the Iranian Revolution in 1988, Janjalani reportedly met with Osama bin Laden in Pakistan and may even have fought alongside him during the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan, after which Janjalani developed his mission to transform the southern Philippines into an Islamic state.[4]

Janjalani was at one point a member of the Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF), but upon permanently returning to the Philippines from the Middle East, he recruited other disenfranchised MNLF members into what would become the ASG. These ex-MNLF members held more radical views on how to establish an independent Islamic state than did their former parent organization.[5]Despite the efforts of the existing MNLF and the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF), persistent political and economic inequality between the Moros and other Filipinos strengthened the ASG’s emergence as an alternative to those organizations. The ASG also benefited from poor economic conditions in the Philippines at the time, allowing the group to recruit new members who had relatively few economic opportunities.[6]

Throughout the 1990s, the ASG gained recognition by turning to violence, engaging in bombings, kidnapping, assassinations, and other attacks with a special focus on Christians and foreigners. The ASG also targeted the Philippine military, consistent with the organization’s professed goal of resisting the Philippine government and establishing an independent Moro state.[7]

While the MNLF and the MILF distanced themselves from the ASG and its extremely violent tactics, the ASG’s loose relationship with Al Qaeda—stemming from Janjalani’s connection to bin Laden—continued. Al Qaeda supported the ASG with funding and training; in addition, Mohammad Jamal Khalifa, a wealthy Saudi businessman and bin Laden’s brother-in-law, also provided early funding to the ASG.[8]In 1991 and 1992, Al Qaeda member Ramzi Yousef—a major participant in the 1993 World Trade Center bombing—traveled to the Philippines several times and, in 1994, allegedly provided training for ASG operatives.[9]During this time, Yousef and other Al Qaeda members, including Khalid Shaikh Mohammed, collaborated with the ASG in the Bojinka plot, in which twelve airplanes were to be bombed over the Pacific Ocean. The Bojinka plot was never executed; operatives botched the manufacturing of explosives in Yousef’s Manila apartment, leading to a fire and the discovery of the plot in January 1995.[10]The Al Qaeda-ASG relationship weakened after Pakistan arrested Yousef and the Philippines blocked Khalifa from entry after the discovery of his connection to the plot.[11]

After Philippine police forces killed Janjalani in a 1998 shootout, the ASG fractured into two factions. Khadaffy Janjalani, brother of the deceased ASG founder, led one group, while a commander named Galib Andang led the other. Fragmentation and deterioration of discipline within the ASG, combined with the loss of Al Qaeda’s assistance, pushed the organization to substitute its terrorist activities for kidnappings. These kidnappings were conducted specifically to obtain ransom, which was necessary for the group’s financial survival.[12]

In 2000, the ASG conducted its first international attack, kidnapping twenty-one people from a Malaysian resort.[13]

In the aftermath of Al Qaeda’s September 11, 2001 attacks against the United States, the ASG was targeted by U.S. forces and the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) under the wide-ranging Operation Enduring Freedom, which included a 2002 U.S. deployment of 1,650 troops to the Philippines. The reinvigoration of counterterrorism efforts damaged the ASG. Galib Andang, for example, was captured in 2003. While the ASG did suffer losses, the elimination of certain key figures like Andang also decreased fragmentation.[14]  

Consequent to the decrease in fragmentation, the ASG was once again able to consolidate, and carried out several major attacks in the early 2000s. These included the ASG’s deadliest attack, the 2004 Superferry 14 bombing in Manila Bay that killed 116, and the 2005 “Valentine’s Day Bombings.” New U.S.-AFP counterterrorism efforts followed these high-profile attacks, and Khadaffy Janjalani was killed in 2006. As before, the ASG’s leadership losses and subsequent decentralization resulted in an end to mass bombings and a return to kidnapping for ransom in 2007.[15]

From 2007 onward, the ASG has mainly engaged in kidnapping activities, often threatening to behead hostages unless a ransom is paid. Most kidnapping victims are Filipinos, although the ASG also targets foreigners in the southern Philippines, including tourists at resorts and foreign workers. The ASG’s kidnapping activities themselves appear to be profit-driven rather than politically motivated, although the ransoms fund weapons and other supplies.[16]Because of the ASG’s small size and focus on using kidnapping and extortion to make money, some analysts and officials now describe the ASG as more of a criminal gang than an ideologically driven organization.[17]The ASG still targets the Philippine military, but its attacks have been smaller in scale and it has been unable to execute large-scale bombings since the early 2000s. 

The ASG is the smallest and most radical of the Philippines’ Islamic separatist groups, and the Philippine government does not consider it a legitimate negotiating partner. Likewise, because the ASG purportedly aims to create an independent state through violent resistance rather than negotiation, it has shown little inclination towards peace talks with the Philippine government.[18]The ASG has instead sought to undermine the latest round of peace negotiations between the government and the MILF, conducting attacks to destabilize ceasefire agreements and discourage further dialogue.[19]In July 2014 on the island of Jolo, the ASG killed at least 21 Muslims celebrating the end of Ramadan, reportedly in retaliation for their support of the peace process.[20]

Currently, the ASG has at least a nominal link to the Islamic State (IS). On July 23, 2014, Isnilon Hapilon—an ASG leader—and a group of unidentified men appeared in a YouTube video pledging allegiance to IS and to its leader, Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi. Days later in another video, a group of men identifying themselves as ASG members also pledged allegiance to IS and Baghdadi.[21]In September 2014, the ASG threatened the lives of two German hostages, demanding that Germany pay a ransom and rescind its support for U.S. attacks on IS.[22]

Scholars and officials, including Lieutenant General Rustico Guerrero of the Philippine Army, believe that the ASG has pledged allegiance to IS solely to promote its own interests, rather than those of IS.[23]The ASG had earlier demanded only a ransom for the German hostages, and in October 2014, it released the hostages and reported that the ransom had been paid; there were no reported changes in German policy toward U.S. attacks on IS.[24]Beyond the videos declaring an oath of allegiance, the ASG and IS have not demonstrated any links between them. IS does not seem to have given funds or other material support to the ASG.[25]

In 2016, IS released a video showing four “battalions” of militants pledging allegiance to IS, who followed up with a video accepting the pledges from militant groups in the Philippines.[26]IS claims responsibility for attacks by the ASG and called for IS followers to go fight in the Philippines.[27]Following their declaration of allegiance to IS, ASG tactics were still primarily kidnapping for ransom and civilian attacks.[28]

On May 23, 2017, the ASG launched an aggressive series of attacks in Marawi, a Muslim majority city in Mindanao. Fighting began after government forces tried to capture Isnilon Hapilon in Marawi based on some actionable intelligence.[29] Other jihadist groups supported the ASG battle in Marawi, particularly the new IS-affiliated Maute Group. By June they had claimed parts of the city.[30] Attacks also occurred elsewhere in the region.

In August 2017, an estimated 60 to 100 members of the ASG attacked a town called Maluso, killing nine people and injuring 10 others.[31] Some fighters refer to the state they sought to create in the Mindanao region as the “East Asia Wilayat” or “Wilayah al-Filibin”, a name IS neither officially supported or denounced.[32]Filipino president Rodrigo Duterte declared martial law and the U.S. provided 50 to 100 special operations forces soldiers for training and technical assistance.[33]

On October 17, 2017, the Philippine government declared Marawi reclaimed after 5 months of fighting. In total, the battle for Marawi resulted in the deaths of more than 1,000 people (including an estimated 900 militants), and the displacement of an estimated 200,000 people. According to President Duterte and the Philippines military, Hapilon died during the final push to reclaim Marawi. The high death toll of ASG fighters and the loss of key leadership leaves the future of the ASG uncertain.[34]In recent years, the existence of many ASG factions—often based on clan or familial ties—has made it hard for group leader Radulan Sahiron to exert central command and control. Instead, the ASG is increasingly decentralized with different deputy leaders carrying out their own operations as they see fit.[35]

On July 24, 2018, the Philippine House of Representatives passed the Bangsamoro Organic Law (BOL), the final name of the former Bangsamoro Basic Law which would establish a new autonomous region for Moro Muslims in the south.[36]With President Rodrigo Duterte’s signing the bill into law, a Muslim regional entity was created in Mindanao. With the bill’s passing, the MILF, representatives of which were present during the signing of the bill in Manila, declared its support. MILF leader Ebrahim declared that 30-40,000 fighters would be decommissioned.[37]President Duterte signed the law into effect on July 26, 2018, although Misuari and the MNLF remain opposed to the BOL and want the government to honor the 1996 ARMM agreement and place Misuari in the position of governor of the autonomous region.[38]

On July 31, 2018, a car bomb exploded at a checkpoint in Basilian’s Lamitan City, killing at least 10 people, including the driver, a Philippine Army Special Forces sergeant, four Philippine Army-led local militiamen, and several civilians including a woman and child.[39]The AFP has assigned blame on militants linked to the ASG.[40]



[1]"Abu Sayyaf Kidnappings, Bombings and Other Attacks." GMA News Research. GMA News Online, 23 Aug. 2007. Web. 19 May 2012. <http://www.gmanetwork.com/news/story/154797/news/abu-sayyaf-kidnappings-...>

[2]Gomez, Jim. “4 dead as fighting continues in southern Philippine city”. Fox News, 18 October 2017. Web. 28 October 2017. http://www.foxnews.com/world/2017/10/18/4-dead-as-fighting-continues-in-...

[3]“Abu Sayyaf Group.” National Counterterrorism Center, n.d. Web. 24 June 2015. <http://www.nctc.gov/site/groups/asg.html>

[4]Hutchison, Billy G. “Abu Sayyaf.” The Counterproliferation Papers: Future Warfare Series No. 49 (Sept. 2009): 3. USAF Counterproliferation Center. Web. 25 May 2012. <www.dtic.mil/cgi-bin/GetTRDoc?AD=ADA518942>

[5]Hutchison, Billy G. “Abu Sayyaf.” <www.dtic.mil/cgi-bin/GetTRDoc?AD=ADA518942>

[6]Banlaoi, Rommel C. “The Abu Sayyaf Group: From Mere Banditry to Genuine Terrorism.” Southeast Asian Affairs (2006): 249. Web. 25 June 2015.

[7]“The Abu Sayyaf-Al Qaeda Connection.” ABC News, 20 Dec. 2001. Web. 25 June 2015. <http://abcnews.go.com/International/story?id=79205>

[8]“The Abu Sayyaf-Al Qaeda Connection.” ABC News, 20 Dec. 2001. Web. 25 June 2015. <http://abcnews.go.com/International/story?id=79205>

[9]Hutchison, Billy G. “Abu Sayyaf.” The Counterproliferation Papers: Future Warfare Series No. 49 (Sept. 2009): 6. USAF Counterproliferation Center. Web. 25 May 2012. <www.dtic.mil/cgi-bin/GetTRDoc?AD=ADA518942>

[10]“Suicide-pilot plan uncovered six years ago in Philippines.” AP/Reuters, 14 Sept. 2001. Web. 13 July 2015. <http://taipeitimes.com/News/us/archives/2001/09/14/102905>

[11]Fellman, Zack. “Abu Sayyaf Group.” AQAM Futures Project Case Study Series, Case Study Number 5 (Nov. 2011): 3. Center for Strategic and International Studies. Web. 25 June 2015. <http://csis.org/files/publication/111128_Fellman_ASG_AQAMCaseStudy5.pdf>

[12]Fellman, Zack. “Abu Sayyaf Group.” AQAM Futures Project Case Study Series, Case Study Number 5 (Nov. 2011): 3. Center for Strategic and International Studies. Web. 25 June 2015. <http://csis.org/files/publication/111128_Fellman_ASG_AQAMCaseStudy5.pdf>

[13]"Abu Sayyaf Kidnappings, Bombings and Other Attacks." GMA News Research. GMA News Online, 23 Aug. 2007. Web. 19 May 2012. <http://www.gmanetwork.com/news/story/154797/news/abu-sayyaf-kidnappings-...>

[14]Fellman, Zack. “Abu Sayyaf Group.” AQAM Futures Project Case Study Series, Case Study Number 5 (Nov. 2011): 3. Center for Strategic and International Studies. Web. 25 June 2015. <http://csis.org/files/publication/111128_Fellman_ASG_AQAMCaseStudy5.pdf>

[15]Fellman, Zack. “Abu Sayyaf Group.” AQAM Futures Project Case Study Series, Case Study Number 5 (Nov. 2011): 4. Center for Strategic and International Studies. Web. 25 June 2015. <http://csis.org/files/publication/111128_Fellman_ASG_AQAMCaseStudy5.pdf>

[16]Whaley, Floyd. “Kidnappings Point to Security Breakdown in Southern Philippines.” The New York Times, 5 Jan. 2012. Web. 26 June 2015. <http://www.nytimes.com/2012/01/06/world/asia/kidnappings-point-to-securi...

[17]“In the Southern Philippines, the Peace Process Stumbles Forward.” Stratfor. 14 Sept. 2014. Web. 24 June 2015. <https://www.stratfor.com/analysis/southern-philippines-peace-process-stu...

[18]Whaley, Floyd. “New Clash in the Philippines Raises Fears of a Wider Threat.” The New York Times, 12 Sept. 2013. Web. 24 June 2015. <http://www.nytimes.com/2013/09/13/world/asia/attack-raises-fears-of-musl...

[19]“In the Southern Philippines, the Peace Process Stumbles Forward.” Stratfor. 14 Sept. 2014. Web. 24 June 2015. <https://www.stratfor.com/analysis/southern-philippines-peace-process-stu...

[20]Whaley, Floyd. “Filipino Rebels Kill 21 Villagers Over Peace Deal.” The New York Times, 28 July 2014. Web. 25 June 2015. <http://www.nytimes.com/2014/07/29/world/asia/philippine-rebel-group-oppo...

[21]Ressa, Maria A. “Senior Abu Sayyaf leader swears oath to ISIS.” Rappler, 15 Oct. 2014. Web. 25 June 2015. <http://www.rappler.com/nation/65199-abu-sayyaf-leader-oath-isis>

[22]Oltermann, Philip. “Islamists in Philippines threaten to kill German hostages.” The Guardian, 24 Sept. 2014. Web. 25 June 2015. <http://www.theguardian.com/world/2014/sep/24/islamists-philippines-threa...

[23]FlorCruz, Michelle. “Philippine Terror Group Abu Sayyaf May Be Using ISIS Link For Own Agenda.” International Business Times, 25 Sept. 2014. Web. 25 June 2015. <http://www.ibtimes.com/philippine-terror-group-abu-sayyaf-may-be-using-i...

[24]“Islamist militants free two German hostages in Philippines.” The Guardian, 17 Oct. 2014. Web. 26 June 2015. <http://www.theguardian.com/world/2014/oct/17/islamist-militants-abu-sayy...

[25]Romero, Alexis. “ISIS has not penetrated Phl—AFP.” Philstar, 28 Apr. 2015. Web. 26 June 2015. <http://www.philstar.com/headlines/2015/04/28/1448700/isis-has-not-penetr...

[26]Taylor, Victor. “Evolution of Abu Sayyaf Group Part 2”. Mackenzie Institute, 24 April 2017. Web. 27 October 2017. <http://mackenzieinstitute.com/evolution-abu-sayyaf-group-part-2/>

[27]Taylor, Victor. “Evolution of Abu Sayyaf Group Part 2”. Mackenzie Institute, 24 April 2017. Web. 27 October 2017. <http://mackenzieinstitute.com/evolution-abu-sayyaf-group-part-2/>

[28]“Country Report on Terrorism 2014,” U.S. Department of State, June 19, 2015. Web. 20 November 2017. <http://www.state.gov/j/ct/rls/crt/2014/239413.html>

[29]“Timeline: Maute Attack in Marawi City”. ABS-CBN News, 25 May 2017. Web. 20 November 2017. http://news.abs-cbn.com/focus/05/23/17/timeline-maute-attack-in-marawi-city}} {{Morallo, Audrey. “AFP: Marawi clashes as part of security operation, not terrorist attack”. Philstar Global, 23 May 2017. Web. 20 November 2017. <http://www.philstar.com/headlines/2017/05/23/1702885/afp-marawi-clashes-...

[30]“Who are the ISIS-linked Maute Group Militants Terrorizing the Philippines?” Reuters, 23 June 2017. Web. 20 November 2017. <http://www.newsweek.com/who-are-isis-linked-maute-group-and-how-have-the...

[31]“9 killed in Philippine Abu Sayyaf Attack: Police”. The Straits Times, 21 August 2017. Web. 28 October 2017. <http://www.straitstimes.com/asia/se-asia/9-killed-in-philippines-abu-say...

[32]Ramakrishna, Kumar. “The East Asia Wilayat: A Long Time in the Making”. Institute for Autonomy and Governance, 14 October 2017. Web. 20 November 2017. <http://www.iag.org.ph/index.php/blog/1510-the-east-asia-wilayah-of-isis-...

[33]Watts, Jake Maxwell. “U.S. Forces Backing Philippine Troops as Battle With Islamic State-Linked Militants Intensifies” Wall Street Journal, 10 June 2017. Web 3 July, 2018. <https://www.wsj.com/articles/u-s-forces-backing-philippine-troops-as-bat...

[34]Paddock, Richard & Villamor, Felipe. “Destroying a Philippine City to Save It From ISIS Allies”. The New York Times, 13 June 2017. Web. 21 October 2017. <https://www.nytimes.com/2017/06/13/world/asia/marawi-philippines-islamic... , Jones, Sidney. “After Marawi, Abu Sayyaf could Return to Kidnapping”. The Maritime Executive, 20 October 2017. Web. 28 October 2017. <https://maritime-executive.com/editorials/after-marawi-abu-sayyaf-could-...

[35]"Abu Sayyaf Group." Australian National Security. Australian Government, n.d. Web. Accessed 5 August 2013. <http://www.nationalsecurity.gov.au/Listedterroristorganisations/Pages/Ab...

[36]Diaz, Jess. “House ratifies Bangsamoro Organic Law”. Philstar, 25 July, 2018. Web. 24 July, 2018 (Manila time is +1 day). <https://www.philstar.com/headlines/2018/07/25/1836632/house-ratifies-ban....

[37]Associated Press, “Philippine rebel chief: 30,000 rebels to be disarmed in deal”. Philstar, 25 July, 2018. Web. 24 July, 2018 (Manila time is +1 day). <https://www.philstar.com/headlines/2018/07/25/1836474/philippine-rebel-c....

[38]Placido, Dharel. “Duterte offers peace to Misuari”. ABS-CBN News, 26 July, 2018. Web. 29 July, 2018. < http://news.abs-cbn.com/news/07/26/18/duterte-offers-peace-to-misuari>.

[39]Felongco, Gilbert P. “Ten killed as powerful explosion rips checkpoint in Basilan”. Gulf News Philippines, 31 July, 2018. Web. 31 July, 2018. https://gulfnews.com/news/asia/philippines/ten-killed-as-powerful-explos....

[40]McKirdy, Euan and Yazhou Sun. “Car bomb kills at least 10 in Philippines”. CNN World, 31 July 2018. Web/ 31 July 2018. https://www.cnn.com/2018/07/31/asia/philippines-basilan-car-bomb-intl/in....

 

Organizational Structure

Leadership, Name Changes, Size Estimates, Resources, Geographic Locations

    Leadership
  • Leadership
  • Name Changes
  • Resources
  • Geographic Locations
  • Size Estimates

Leadership

The ASG's leadership is currently fragmented, especially after the deaths of several of the group’s leaders in 2006-2007. It is unknown whether one key figure leads the ASG, but the existence of many factions, often based on clan or family, and loose associations within the group suggests that a central leadership is unlikely at this time. Instead, the ASG has several leadership figures who carry out their own operations.[1]

Abdurajak Abubakar Janjalani (1991 to December 18, 1998): Janjalani was the founder and first key leader of the ASG. He was killed by police in a 1998 gunfight on the island of Basilan.[2]

Khadaffy Janjalani (1998 to September 4, 2006): After Abdurajak Janjalani’s death, his younger brother Khadaffy assumed a key leadership role. Khadaffy was killed in a 2006 confrontation with Philippine troops.[3]

Alhamser Limbong (Unknown to March 30, 2002): Limbong, also known as Commander Kosovo, led the ASG’s Manila cell, according to Philippine police.[4]He was likely plotting a bombing involving 180 pounds of TNT at the time of his March 30, 2002 arrest during a raid in Manila.[5]Limbong was killed in 2005 during an attempted jailbreak, along with ASG leader Galib Andang.[6]

Galib Andang (1998 to December 2003):Andang, also known as Commander Robot, led one ASG faction after Abdurajak Janjalani’s death. Andang was captured in a 2003 clash with the military and was killed in 2005 during an attempted jailbreak, along with ASG leader Alhamser Limbong.[7]

Abu Sulaiman (Unknown to January 16, 2007): Abu Sulaiman, born as Jainal Antel Sali, Jr., was a high-ranking ASG leader and spokesman. Together, Abu Sulaiman and Khadaffy Janjalani reportedly unified six or more ASG factions.[8]Abu Sulaiman was considered by the Philippine military to be one of Khadaffy Janjalani’s successors, and he was killed by the army in 2007.[9]

Abdul Basir Latip (Unknown to 2009): Latip is an ASG co-founder and served as a key financial officer, moving funds from Al Qaeda to the ASG. He also allegedly established ties between the ASG and Jemaah Islamiyah (JI).[10]In 2009, Latip was detained in Indonesia and deported to the Philippines for arrest.[11]

Albader Parad (Unknown to February 2, 2010): Parad was a military commander and ranking leader of the ASG.[12]He led an ASG cell on the island of Jolo and was killed by the Philippine military in 2010.[13]

Gumbahali Jumdail (Unknown to February 2, 2012): Jumdail, also known as Doc Abu, was an ASG regional leader.[14]He was killed by the Philippine air force in 2012.[15]

Yasser Igasan (2007 to Present):Igasan, also known as Kumander Diang, is a current leader of the ASG.[16]Although the Philippine military reported that Igasan was elected to succeed Khadaffy Janjalani in 2007, that claim was later retracted.[17]

Radulan Sahiron (Unknown to Present):Sahiron, also known as Commander Putol, became a key leader of the ASG after Khadaffy Janjalani’s death. He had previously held top leadership and advisory positions within the ASG. Sahiron continues to be an important ASG public figure and operational commander.[18]

Isnilon Totoni Hapilon (Unknown to Present): Hapilon, also known as Abu Musab, Sol, Abu Tuan, Esnilon, Salahudin, and The Deputy, is considered one of the ASG’s key current leaders, along with Radulan Sahiron.[19]Before assuming this role, Hapilon served as an ASG deputy commander.[20]In June 2016, IS released a video declaring Hapilon as the group's emir of the Philippines.[21]

 



[1]"Abu Sayyaf Group." Australian National Security. Australian Government, n.d. Web. Accessed 5 August 2013. <http://www.nationalsecurity.gov.au/Listedterroristorganisations/Pages/Ab...

[2]Rubin, Barry and Judith Colp Rubin. Chronologies of Modern Terrorism. New York: Routledge, 2008. Print.

[3] Associated Press. “DNA Test Confirms Death of Philippine Separatist Leader.” The New York Times, 21 Jan. 2007. Web. 29 June 2015. . Meo, Nick. "US Helps Fight against Abu Sayyaf." BBC News. BBC, 4

[4]Associated Press. “Philippines arrests ‘foil bomb plot.’” The Guardian, 30 Mar. 2004. Web. 26 June 2015. <http://www.theguardian.com/world/2004/mar/30/alqaida.terrorism>

[5]Bonner, Raymond and Carlos H. Conde. “U.S. Warns the Philippines on Terror Groups.” The New York Times, 11 Apr. 2004. Web. 26 June 2015. <http://www.nytimes.com/2004/04/11/world/us-warns-the-philippines-on-terr...

[6]"Profiles of Dead Abu Sayyaf Leaders." BBC News. BBC, 15 Mar. 2005. Web. 24 May 2012. <http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/asia-pacific/4350033.stm>

[7]"Profiles of Dead Abu Sayyaf Leaders." BBC News. BBC, 15 Mar. 2005. Web. 24 May 2012. <http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/asia-pacific/4350033.stm>

[8]Associated Press. “Abu Sayyaf hit by leadership, funding woes.” Taipei Times, 4 Apr. 2008. Web. 29 June 2015. <http://www.taipeitimes.com/News/world/archives/2008/04/04/2003408261>

[9]“Abu Sulaiman, a leader of the Abu Sayyaf rebel group, has been killed.” The New York Times, 17 Jan. 2007. Web. 29 June 2015. <http://www.nytimes.com/2007/01/17/world/asia/17iht-phils.4233238.html>

[10]McGivering, Jill. “Key Abu Sayyaf member ‘arrested’ in the Philippines.” BBC News. BBC, 16 Dec. 2009. Web. 19 May 2012. <http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/asia-pacific/8416437.stm>

[11]“Abu Sayyaf co-founder arrested.” Agence France-Presse, 16 Dec. 2009. Web. 29 June 2015. <http://newsinfo.inquirer.net/breakingnews/nation/view/20091216-242371/Ab...

[12]“Albader Parad.” GMA News Research. GMA News Online, 16 Mar. 2009. Web. 29 June 2015. <http://www.gmanetwork.com/news/story/152935/news/albader-parad>

[13]Montlake, Simon. "Philippines Kills Abu Sayyaf Most-wanted Albader Parad." The Christian Science Monitor, 22 Feb. 2010. Web. 25 May 2012. <http://www.csmonitor.com/World/Asia-Pacific/2010/0222/Philippines-kills-...

[14]“Philippine military ‘kills three wanted militants.’” BBC News. BBC, 2 Feb. 2012. Web. 29 June 2015. <http://www.bbc.com/news/world-asia-16849271>

[15]Laude, Jaime. “Abu Sayyaf killers among top AFP awardees.” Philstar, 21 Dec. 2012. Web. 29 June 2015. <http://www.philstar.com/headlines/2012/12/21/888613/abu-sayyaf-killers-a...

[16]“Yasser Igasan.” National Consortium for the Study of Terrorism and Responses to Terrorism, 1 Mar. 2008. Web. 29 June 2015. <http://archive.is/oRRux>

[17]“Yasser Igasan succeeds Janjalani as Abu chief.” GMA News Online, 27 June 2007. Web. 29 June 2015. <http://www.gmanetwork.com/news/story/48531/news/regions/yasser-igasan-su..., Abuza, Zachary. “The Demise of the Abu Sayyaf Group in the Southern Philippines.” CTC Sentinel 1.7 (June 2008): 1. Web. 29 June 2015.

[18]“Security Council Committee pursuant to resolutions 1267 (1999) and 1989 (2011) concerning Al-Qaida and associated individuals and entities.” United Nations, 26 Aug. 2009. Web. 29 June 2015. <http://www.un.org/sc/committees/1267/NSQDi208E.shtml>

[19]Mogato, Manuel. “Top Filipino militant wounded in army attack.” Reuters, 16 Apr. 2013. Web. 29 June 2015. <http://www.reuters.com/article/2013/04/16/us-philippines-militants-idUSB...

[20]“U.S. charges Abu Sayyaf leaders in kidnappings.” CNN, 24 July 2002. Web. 29 June 2015. <http://www.cnn.com/2002/LAW/07/23/philippines.rebels.charges/>

[21]Ness, Marielle. "Beyond the Caliphate: Southeast Asia". Combating Terrorism Center at West Point. June 20 2017. Web. June 28 2018. <https://www.ctc.usma.edu/app/uploads/2017/06/CTC-Southeast-Asia.pdf>

 

Name Changes

  • 1989: Mujahedeen Commando Freedom Fighters (MCFF). The MCFF was Abdurajak Janjalani's first group, composed of disillusioned MNLF members. It was established within the MNLF, but it became the ASG in 1991, when Janjalani officially split from the MNLF.[1]
  • 1991: Abu Sayyaf Group (ASG). Abdurajak Janjalani renamed the group after Professor Abdul Rasul Sayyaf, a resistance leader in Afghanistan. The name translates to “father of the swordsman.”[2]
  • Unknown: Al Harakat Al Islamiyyah (AHAI). This name translates to “The Islamic Movement” and is an alternative name for the ASG, reportedly preferred by the ASG’s earliest members.[3]


[1]Hutchison, Billy G. “Abu Sayyaf.” The Counterproliferation Papers: Future Warfare Series No. 49 (Sept. 2009): 3. USAF Counterproliferation Center. Web. 25 May 2012. <www.dtic.mil/cgi-bin/GetTRDoc?AD=ADA518942>

[2]Hutchison, Billy G. “Abu Sayyaf.” The Counterproliferation Papers: Future Warfare Series No. 49 (Sept. 2009): 3. USAF Counterproliferation Center. Web. 25 May 2012. <www.dtic.mil/cgi-bin/GetTRDoc?AD=ADA518942>

[3]Banlaoi, Rommel C. “Roots and Evolution.” Al-Harakatul Al-Islamiyah: Essays on the Abu Sayyaf Group. Ed. Rommel C. Banlaoi. Quezon City, Philippines: Philippine Institute for Political Violence and Terrorism Research, 2008. 16. Print.

 

Resources

The ASG has received money or training from other Islamist militant groups in the past, including Al Qaeda and Jemaah Islamiyah.[1]Today, the ASG’s main source of funding is criminal activity, to which the group increasingly turned after the decline of funding from foreign sources in the mid-1990s. The ASG is best known for engaging in kidnapping, demanding ransom from wealthy families and Western governments, generating up to several million dollars per ransom. The ASG also finances itself through blackmail, extortion, smuggling, and sales of marijuana.[2]

Besides financially supporting its members, the ASG uses its money primarily to buy weapons and communications equipment.[3]A 2005 Philippine military estimate suggested that the ASG held about 480 weapons, in addition to equipment for night vision capabilities, thermal imaging, speedboats, and more.[4] The ASG has reportedly bought weapons from the AFP, indicating the possibility of local military corruption.[5] The ASG has also allegedly obtained weapons from the Infante Organization, a U.S.-Philippines illegal drug and weapons supply group whose leader was arrested in 2003, and from Viktor Bout, an international arms trafficker who also supplied Al Qaeda and Hezbollah before his 2008 arrest.[6]

 



[1]“The Abu Sayyaf-Al Qaeda Connection.” ABC News, 20 Dec. 2001. Web. 25 June 2015. <http://abcnews.go.com/International/story?id=79205>, “Chapter 6. Foreign Terrorist Organizations.” U.S. Department of State, 31 July 2012. Web. 29 June 2015. <http://www.state.gov/j/ct/rls/crt/2011/195553.htm#asg>

[2]Bale, Jeffrey M. “The Abu Sayyaf Group in its Philippine and International Contexts.” Middlebury Institute of International Studies at Monterey.

[3]"Abu Sayyaf Group." Australian National Security. Australian Government, n.d. Web. Accessed 5 August 2013. <http://www.nationalsecurity.gov.au/Listedterroristorganisations/Pages/Ab..., Jeffrey M. “The Abu Sayyaf Group in its Philippine and International Contexts.” Middlebury Institute of International Studies at Monterey.

[4]Banlaoi, Rommel C. “The Abu Sayyaf Group: From Mere Banditry to Genuine Terrorism.” Southeast Asian Affairs (2006): 254. Web. 25 June 2015.

[5]Bale, Jeffrey M. “The Abu Sayyaf Group in its Philippine and International Contexts.” Middlebury Institute of International Studies at Monterey.

[6]Anderson, Curt. “U.S. Charges Man Linked to Abu Sayyaf.” Associated Press, 6 Nov. 2003. Web. 29 June 2015 <http://www.apnewsarchive.com/2003/U-S-Charges-Man-Linked-to-Abu-Sayyaf/i..., Richard. “Profile: Viktor Bout, The ‘Merchant Of Death.’” Radio Free Europe Radio Liberty, 25 Aug. 2010. Web. 29 June 2015. <http://www.rferl.org/content/Profile_Viktor_Bout_The_Merchant_Of_Death/2...

 

Geographic Locations

Disclaimer: This is a partial list of where the militant organization has bases and where it operates. This does not include information on where the group conducts major attacks or has external influences.

The ASG originated in the southern region of the Philippines. It continues to train and operate mainly on the island of Mindanao, in particular the Zamboanga Peninsula, and the Sulu Archipelago, which includes the islands of Basilan, Jolo, and Tawi-Tawi.[1] Less frequently, the ASG also conducts operations in the Manila area.[2]Additionally, the ASG has conducted kidnappings and attacks in nearby Malaysia, beginning in 2000 by kidnapping visitors to a resort.[3]


[1]“Chapter 6. Foreign Terrorist Organizations.” U.S. Department of State, 31 July 2012. Web. 29 June 2015. <http://www.state.gov/j/ct/rls/crt/2011/195553.htm#asg>

[2]“Abu Sayyaf Group.” National Counterterrorism Center, n.d. Web. 24 June 2015. <http://www.nctc.gov/site/groups/asg.html>

[3]"Abu Sayyaf Kidnappings, Bombings and Other Attacks." GMA News Research. GMA News Online, 23 Aug. 2007. Web. 19 May 2012. <http://www.gmanetwork.com/news/story/154797/news/abu-sayyaf-kidnappings-...

 

Size Estimates

  • 2008: 200-500 (US State Department)[1]
  • April 2010: 445 (Combating Terrorism Center at West Point)[2]  
  •  July 2013: 380 (Xinhua News)[3]
  • May 2015: 400 (Associated Press)[4]


[1]"Abu Sayyaf Group." Council on Foreign Relations, 27 May 2009. Web. 6 Aug. 2013. <http://www.cfr.org/philippines/abu-sayyaf-group-philippines-islamist-sep...

[2]Banlaoi, Rommel C. "The Sources of the Abu Sayyaf’s Resilience in the Southern Philippines." CTC Sentinel 3.5 (May 2010): 1. Web. 24 May 2012.

[3]"Kidnapped Philippine Researcher Released by Abu Sayyaf Gunmen." Xinhua, 31 July 2013. Web. 5 August 2013. <http://news.xinhuanet.com/english/world/2013-07/31/c_132589010.htm>

[4]“4 Killed as Philippine Troops Clash With Abu Sayyaf.” The New York Times, 15 May 2015. Web. 29 June 2015. <http://www.nytimes.com/aponline/2015/05/15/world/asia/ap-as-philippines-...

 

Strategy

Ideology, Aims, Political Activities, Targets, and Tactics

    Ideology and Goals
  • Ideology and Goals
  • Political Activities
  • Targets and Tactics

Ideology and Goals

The ASG aims to establish an independent Salafist Sunni Islamic state in the Mindanao region for the Filipino minority known as the Moros. This goal is shaped by the historical narrative of the “Bangsamoro” struggle, in which Filipino Muslims—concentrated in the southern Philippines where Muslim merchants arrived in the 1300s or earlier—have long clashed with the Spanish, American, and Filipino governments that they believe have sought to oppress them.[1]

The ASG also aims to expel the Christian settlers who migrated to Mindanao from other regions in the Philippines such as Luzon and the Visayas. These Christian settlers began migrating to the southern Philippines with government encouragement in the 1910s; they now comprise 75% of the region.[2]

Despite the ASG’s stated goals, the organization shows signs of becoming motivated more by material gain than by ideological struggle. Some analysts and officials now liken the ASG to a criminal gang.[3]

 



[1]Welch, Ivan. “Islamic Insurgency in the Philippines: Bangsamoro.” OE Watch. Foreign Military Studies Office, n.d. Web. 29 June 2015. <http://fmso.leavenworth.army.mil/OEWatch/201305/Special_Essay_01.html>

[2]Kamlian, Jamail A. "Ethnic and Religious Conflict in Southern Philippines: A Discourse on Self-Determination, Political Autonomy and Conflict Resolution." Emory University, School of Law. Atlanta, GA. 4 Nov. 2003. Islam and Human Rights Fellow Lecture.

[3]“In the Southern Philippines, the Peace Process Stumbles Forward.” Stratfor. 14 Sept. 2014. Web. 24 June 2015. <https://www.stratfor.com/analysis/southern-philippines-peace-process-stu...

 

Political Activities

The ASG has never engaged in peace talks or any other form of nonviolent political activity. It specifically promotes armed struggle as the means of achieving an independent Moro state.[1] The ASG has conducted attacks to destabilize ceasefire agreements and discourage peace negotiations between the government and the MILF.[2]In July 2014 on the island of Jolo, the ASG killed at least 21 Muslims celebrating the end of Ramadan, reportedly in retaliation for their support of the peace process.[3]

 



[1]Whaley, Floyd. “New Clash in the Philippines Raises Fears of a Wider Threat.” The New York Times, 12 Sept. 2013. Web. 24 June 2015. <http://www.nytimes.com/2013/09/13/world/asia/attack-raises-fears-of-musl...

[2]“In the Southern Philippines, the Peace Process Stumbles Forward.” Stratfor. 14 Sept. 2014. Web. 24 June 2015. <https://www.stratfor.com/analysis/southern-philippines-peace-process-stu...

[3]Whaley, Floyd. “Filipino Rebels Kill 21 Villagers Over Peace Deal.” The New York Times, 28 July 2014. Web. 25 June 2015. <http://www.nytimes.com/2014/07/29/world/asia/philippine-rebel-group-oppo...

 

Targets and Tactics

As part of its struggle for an independent Islamic state in the southern Philippines, the ASG emphasizes the targeting of Philippine military forces, foreigners, and Christians. The ASG also targets a much larger variety of individuals, including local politicians, business people, and ordinary Filipinos.  

The ASG has used such tactics as assassinations, armed attacks, beheadings, bombings, murder, robbery, kidnappings, and monetary extortion of businesses and individuals. While the ASG conducted several high-profile political bombings in the early 2000s, kidnapping for ransom is the ASG’s current major activity, and the ASG seems to use this tactic with little regard for ideology. The rise of the ASG’s profit-driven criminal activities, coupled with the decline of clearly political attacks like mass bombings, suggests a shift from a principally religious or ideological rationale to material motivations.[1]

 



[1]Banlaoi, Rommel C. "The Sources of the Abu Sayyaf’s Resilience in the Southern Philippines." CTC Sentinel 3.5 (May 2010): 1. Web. 24 May 2012.

 

Major Attacks

 

Disclaimer: These are some selected major attacks in the militant organization's history. It is not a comprehensive listing, but captures some of the most famous attacks or turning points during the campaign.

April 4, 1991: The ASG conducted a grenade attack in Zamboanga City, killing two U.S. Christian evangelists. (2 killed, unknown wounded).[1]

August 1991: The ASG bombed a Christian missionary ship, M/V Doulos. (2 killed, 40 wounded).[2]

April 14, 1995: The ASG attacked the Christian town of Ipil. (53 killed, 48 wounded, ~30 hostages).[3]

April 23, 2000: The ASG conducted its first attack in Malaysia, kidnapping twenty-one people from a tourist resort in Sipadan. These hostages were all released or escaped. (0 killed, unknown wounded, 21 hostages).[4]

May 27, 2001: ASG gunmen kidnapped tourists, including three Americans, from the Dos Palmas resort in Palawan. Six days later, ASG members brought at least some of these hostages to a hospital in Lamitan, where they took more hostages, resulting in Philippine troops laying siege to the hospital.[5] After the kidnapping, the U.S. and the Philippines conducted massive military operations against the ASG in an attempt to rescue the hostages. Some hostages escaped or were released while others—including two of the Americans—were killed. (2 killed, unknown wounded, 20 hostages).[6]

March 4, 2003: A bomb exploded in a shed outside the main terminal building of the Davao International Airport. An ASG spokesman called a national radio station the following day, claiming responsibility for the attack. (21 killed, 148 wounded).[7]

February 27, 2004: A member of the Rajah Solaiman Movement (RSM), a group closely tied to the ASG, detonated a bomb on Superferry 14, a passenger ferry carrying 900 passengers out of Manila. The ASG claimed responsibility for planning the attack, which was confirmed by a subsequent government investigation. The Superferry 14 bombing was the Philippines' deadliest terrorist attack and the world's deadliest terrorist attack at sea. (116 killed, unknown wounded).[8]

February 14, 2005: ASG operatives simultaneously detonated two bombs in Mindanao’s General Santos City and Davao City, closely followed by a third bomb in Makati City. These attacks became known as the "Valentine's Day Bombings," after the ASG’s Abu Sulaiman claimed that the bombs were a "gift" to then-President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo. (8 killed, 147 wounded).[9]

November 13, 2007: A bomb outside the Philippine House of Representatives killed a congressman and two congressional employees. This operation was attributed to the ASG and was the first bombing attack on the Philippine Congress. (3 killed, 11 wounded).[10]

December 5, 2011: The ASG kidnapped Warren Richard Rodwell, a 53-year-old retired Australian soldier. Rodwell was released in March 2013, reportedly for a $120,000 ransom that has not been acknowledged by the Philippines or Australia. (0 killed, 0 wounded, 1 hostage).[11]

May 23, 2017: Government forces clashed with militant group members in a firefight in Marawi City during an attempted capture of ASG leader Isnilon Hapilon. (unknown killed, unknown wounded)[12]

October 17, 2017: President Duterte declared the liberation of Marawi during his seventh visit to the city. The military reported total casualties of 163 government troops, 57 civilians and 847 militants during the siege on Marawi. (1067 killed, unknown wounded)[13]

October 18, 2017: The ASG and supporting militant groups injured 10 soldiers in their last defenses against the Philippines military’s push to reclaim the city of Marawi. This came the day after President Duterte declared Marawi liberated, and it marked the last days of a five-month long siege on Marawi, a populous city in the region of Mindanao. (0 dead, 10 injured)[14]

July 31, 2018: A car bomb exploded at a checkpoint in Basilian’s Lamitan City, killing at least 10 people, including the driver, a Philippine Army Special Forces sergeant, four Philippine Army-led local militiamen, and several civilians including a woman and child. The AFP has assigned blame on militants linked to the ASG. (at least 10 killed, unknown wounded).[15]



[1]"Abu Sayyaf Kidnappings, Bombings and Other Attacks." GMA News Research. GMA News Online, 23 Aug. 2007. Web. 19 May 2012. <http://www.gmanetwork.com/news/story/154797/news/abu-sayyaf-kidnappings-...>

[2]Banlaoi, Rommel C. “The Abu Sayyaf Group: From Mere Banditry to Genuine Terrorism.” Southeast Asian Affairs (2006): 249. Web. 25 June 2015.

[3]"Abu Sayyaf Kidnappings, Bombings and Other Attacks." GMA News Research. GMA News Online, 23 Aug. 2007. Web. 19 May 2012. <http://www.gmanetwork.com/news/story/154797/news/abu-sayyaf-kidnappings-...>, La Vina, Enrico Antonio and Lilita Balane. “Timeline: Abu Sayyaf atrocities.” ABS-CBNNews.com, 9 Nov. 2009. Web. 7 July 2015. <http://www.abs-cbnnews.com/nation/03/31/09/abu-sayyaf-atrocities>

[4]"Abu Sayyaf Kidnappings, Bombings and Other Attacks." GMA News Research. GMA News Online, 23 Aug. 2007. Web. 19 May 2012. <http://www.gmanetwork.com/news/story/154797/news/abu-sayyaf-kidnappings-...>, Golingai, Philip. “Ugly business of kidnapping.” The Star, 25 Nov. 2013. Web. 7 July 2015. <http://www.thestar.com.my/Opinion/Columnists/One-Mans-Meat/Profile/Artic...

[5]“Philippines hostage crisis deepens.” BBC News. BBC, 2 June 2001. Web. 13 July 2015. <http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/asia-pacific/1365491.stm>

[6]“Timeline: Hostage crisis in the Philippines.” CNN, 25 Aug. 2002. Web. 29 June 2015. <http://edition.cnn.com/2002/WORLD/asiapcf/southeast/06/07/phil.timeline....

[7]Spaeth, Anthony. "First Bali, Now Davao." TIME, 10 Mar. 2003. Web. 18 July 2012. <http://www.time.com/time/magazine/article/0,9171,430934,00.html>

[8]“Lives Destroyed: Attacks Against Civilians in the Philippines.” Human Rights Watch, July 2007. Web. 29 June 2015. <http://www.hrw.org/reports/2007/philippines0707/philippines_lives_destro..., Thompson. Matthew. “The other war against terror…at $8 a day.” The Sydney Morning Herald, 20 July 2005. Web. 1 July 2015. <http://www.smh.com.au/news/world/the-other-war-against-terror--at-8-a-da...

[9]"What Went Before: Valentine's Day bombings in 2005." Philippine Daily Inquirer, 26 Jan. 2011. Web. 18 July 2012. <http://newsinfo.inquirer.net/inquirerheadlines/nation/view/20110126-3166...

[10]Conde, Carlos H. “Lawmaker Killed in Manila Bombing Linked to Insurgents in ‘90s.” The New York Times, 15 Nov. 2007. Web. 29 June 2015. <http://www.nytimes.com/2007/11/15/world/asia/15manila.html>,“Abu Sayyaf Group.” National Counterterrorism Center, n.d. Web. 24 June 2015. <http://www.nctc.gov/site/groups/asg.html>

[11]“Philippine policeman arrested over kidnapping of Australian Warren Rodwell.” The Sydney Morning Herald, 18 May 2015. Web. 29 June 2015. <http://www.smh.com.au/world/philippine-policeman-arrested-over-kidnappin...,“Philippine Kidnappers Demand Ransom for Australian.” BBC News. BBC, 5 Jan. 2012. Web. 19 May 2012. <http://www.bbc.com/news/world-asia-16420760>

[12]“Timeline: The Marawi crisis” CNN Philippines, 28 October 2017. Web. 29 October 2017. <http://cnnphilippines.com/news/2017/05/24/marawi-crisis-timeline.html>

[13]“Timeline: The Marawi crisis” CNN Philippines, 28 October 2017. Web. 29 October 2017. <http://cnnphilippines.com/news/2017/05/24/marawi-crisis-timeline.html>

[14]Gomez, Jim. “4 dead as fighting continues in southern Philippine city”. Fox News, 18 October 2017. Web. 28 October 2017. <http://www.foxnews.com/world/2017/10/18/4-dead-as-fighting-continues-in-...

[15]Felongco, Gilbert P. “Ten killed as powerful explosion rips checkpoint in Basilan”. Gulf News Philippines, 31 July, 2018. Web. 31 July, 2018. https://gulfnews.com/news/asia/philippines/ten-killed-as-powerful-explos..., McKirdy, Euan and Yazhou Sun. “Car bomb kills at least 10 in Philippines”. CNN World, 31 July 2018. Web/ 31 July 2018. https://www.cnn.com/2018/07/31/asia/philippines-basilan-car-bomb-intl/in....

 

Interactions

Foreign Designations and Listings, Community Relations, Relations with Other Groups, State Sponsors and External Influences

    Designated/Listed
  • Designated/Listed
  • Community Relations
  • Relationships with Other Groups
  • State Sponsors and External Influences

Designated/Listed

  • U.S. State Department Foreign Terrorist Organizations: October 8, 1997 to Present[1]
  • UN Al Qaeda Sanctions List: October 6, 2001 to Present[2]


[1]“Foreign Terrorist Organizations.” U.S. Department of State. 29 June 2015. <http://www.state.gov/j/ct/rls/other/des/123085.htm>

[2]“The List established and maintained by the 1267/1989 Committee.” United Nations, 26 June 2015. Web. 29 June 2015. <http://www.un.org/sc/committees/1267/1267.pdf>

 

Community Relations

Public support for the ASG across the Philippines is limited, with most Filipinos condemning the group’s activities. The ASG does enjoy some support from Muslims in Mindanao’s Jolo and Basilan regions, but this support has declined in response to the ASG’s violent tactics.[1] Moderate Muslim leaders similarly reject the group.[2] The ASG relies on its members’ families, friends, and other ties to the community for local support and recruitment, and it also channels funds to local communities to augment support.[3] ASG operatives blend easily into the surrounding populations, complicating government operations against them.[4]

 



[1]Niksch, Larry. “Abu Sayyaf: Target of Philippine-U.S. Anti-Terrorism Cooperation.” CRS Report for Congress, 25 Jan. 2002. Web. 21 Aug. 2012. <http://fas.org/irp/crs/RL31265.pdf>

[2]“Philippines: International Religious Freedom Report 2002.” U.S. Department of State, 2002. Web. 24 May 2012. <http://www.state.gov/j/drl/rls/irf/2002/13907.htm>

[3]Hutchison, Billy G. “Abu Sayyaf.” The Counterproliferation Papers: Future Warfare Series No. 49 (Sept. 2009): 5. USAF Counterproliferation Center. Web. 25 May 2012. <www.dtic.mil/cgi-bin/GetTRDoc?AD=ADA518942>

[4]Bale, Jeffrey M. “The Abu Sayyaf Group in its Philippine and International Contexts.” Middlebury Institute of International Studies at Monterey.

 

Relationships with Other Groups

From the beginning, AQ materially and ideologically influenced the ASG. Abdurajak Janjalani’s relationship with Osama bin Laden shaped Janjalani’s decision to establish the ASG and led to its affiliation with AQ.[1] Mohammad Jamal Khalifa, bin Laden’s brother-in-law and a wealthy Saudi businessman, further strengthened the affiliation by supporting the ASG financially and logistically during the group’s early stages.[2] In the early 1990s, AQ member Ramzi Yousef traveled to the Philippines several times and allegedly provided training for the ASG, becoming one of several foreign AQ members to cooperate with the ASG in training operatives and plotting attacks.[3]

The ASG’s relationship with AQ weakened in the mid-1990s after the Philippines barred Khalifa from entering the country and Yousef was arrested in Pakistan. The extent of the ASG-AQ relationship after the mid-1990s remains unclear, although a 2000 Philippine military intelligence report alleged that Al Qaeda had still given the ASG training, weapons, and other support.[4]

Today, the ASG-AQ relationship may have been effectively ended by the ASG’s potential new link to IS, a prominent Al Qaeda rival. On July 23, 2014, ASG leader Isnilon Hapilon and a group of unidentified men pledged allegiance to IS and to IS leader Baghdadi in a YouTube video. In another video released days later, a group of men identifying themselves as ASG members also pledged allegiance to IS and Baghdadi.[5] In September 2014, the ASG threatened the lives of two German hostages, demanding that Germany pay a ransom and rescind its support for U.S. attacks on IS.[6]

However, most scholars and officials believe that the ASG has pledged allegiance to IS solely to promote its own interests, rather than those of IS.[7] The ASG had initially demanded only a ransom for the German hostages, and in October 2014, it released the hostages and reported that a ransom had been paid; yet, there was no reported change in German policy toward U.S. attacks on IS.[8] Beyond the oath of allegiance videos, no links between the ASG and IS have been demonstrated. IS does not seem to have given funds or other material support to the ASG nor acknowledged its oath of allegiance.[9]

In concrete terms of material support and operational cooperation, the ASG has the strongest ties with Jemaah Islamiyah (JI), a regional Islamist militant group, from which it receives funds, logistical support, and training.[10] Some Southeast Asian military analysts say that JI and the ASG are so intertwined that they virtually function as a single organization, especially in the area of the Sulu Archipelago.[11]

The ASG’s relationship with its fellow Filipino separatist groups is more ambiguous, although the MNLF and the MILF both officially condemn the ASG and its tactics. The ASG was originally a faction of the MNLF that broke away in the 1990s, just as the MILF began as an offshoot of the MNLF in the 1970s.[12] Of the Philippines’ three Islamic separatist groups, the ASG is the smallest and most extreme. Unlike the MNLF and the MILF, the ASG has never engaged in peace talks with the Philippine government. Instead, the ASG has conducted attacks to undermine current peace negotiations between the government and the MILF, which is larger and stronger than the ASG.[13] The MNLF still officially denounces the ASG, even though both groups oppose the current negotiations from which they are excluded. In 2013, MNLF chairman Nur Misuari condemned the ASG’s terrorization of Sulu, where the MNLF is headquartered, and announced his intention to rid the area of the ASG’s criminal activities.[14]

There are, however, signs of collaboration between the ASG, the MNLF, and the MILF on an individual level. The three groups have overlapping memberships, shared operational areas, and the common goal of establishing an independent Moro state This suggests the possibility of cooperation among lower-level operatives or individual commanders, despite the organizations’ official positions. Cooperation is especially likely between the ASG and the other groups’ more extreme or dissatisfied members, who, like the ASG, reject all peace talks and autonomy agreements negotiated with the Philippine government. Some of those extreme or dissatisfied members have also gone on to join the ASG.[15]

 



[1]Hutchison, Billy G. “Abu Sayyaf.” The Counterproliferation Papers: Future Warfare Series No. 49 (Sept. 2009): 3. USAF Counterproliferation Center. Web. 25 May 2012. <www.dtic.mil/cgi-bin/GetTRDoc?AD=ADA518942>

[2]"Abu Sayyaf Group." Council on Foreign Relations, 27 May 2009. Web. 6 Aug. 2013. <http://www.cfr.org/philippines/abu-sayyaf-group-philippines-islamist-sep...

[3]Hutchison, Billy G. “Abu Sayyaf.” The Counterproliferation Papers: Future Warfare Series No. 49 (Sept. 2009): 6. USAF Counterproliferation Center. Web. 25 May 2012. <www.dtic.mil/cgi-bin/GetTRDoc?AD=ADA518942>

[4]Niksch, Larry. “Abu Sayyaf: Target of Philippine-U.S. Anti-Terrorism Cooperation.” CRS Report for Congress, 25 Jan. 2002. Web. 21 Aug. 2012. <http://fas.org/irp/crs/RL31265.pdf>

[5]Ressa, Maria A. “Senior Abu Sayyaf leader swears oath to ISIS.” Rappler, 15 Oct. 2014. Web. 25 June 2015. <http://www.rappler.com/nation/65199-abu-sayyaf-leader-oath-isis>

[6]Oltermann, Philip. “Islamists in Philippines threaten to kill German hostages.” The Guardian, 24 Sept. 2014. Web. 25 June 2015. <http://www.theguardian.com/world/2014/sep/24/islamists-philippines-threa...

[7]FlorCruz, Michelle. “Philippine Terror Group Abu Sayyaf May Be Using ISIS Link For Own Agenda.” International Business Times, 25 Sept. 2014. Web. 25 June 2015. <http://www.ibtimes.com/philippine-terror-group-abu-sayyaf-may-be-using-i...

[8]“Islamist militants free two German hostages in Philippines.” The Guardian, 17 Oct. 2014. Web. 26 June 2015. <http://www.theguardian.com/world/2014/oct/17/islamist-militants-abu-sayy...

[9]Romero, Alexis. “ISIS has not penetrated Phl—AFP.” Philstar, 28 Apr. 2015. Web. 26 June 2015. <http://www.philstar.com/headlines/2015/04/28/1448700/isis-has-not-penetr...

[10]Fellman, Zack. “Abu Sayyaf Group.” AQAM Futures Project Case Study Series, Case Study Number 5 (Nov. 2011): 2. Center for Strategic and International Studies. Web. 25 June 2015. <http://csis.org/files/publication/111128_Fellman_ASG_AQAMCaseStudy5.pdf>,"Abu Sayyaf Group." Council on Foreign Relations, 27 May 2009. Web. 6 Aug. 2013. <http://www.cfr.org/philippines/abu-sayyaf-group-philippines-islamist-sep...

[11]Pazzibugan, Dona Z. “Jemaah Islamiyah, Abu Sayyaf now merged, says antiterror expert.” Philippine Daily Inquirer, 29 Sept. 2011. Web. 6 July 2015. <http://newsinfo.inquirer.net/67043/jemaah-islamiyah-abu-sayyaf-now-merge...

[12]"Abu Sayyaf Group." Council on Foreign Relations, 27 May 2009. Web. 6 Aug. 2013. <http://www.cfr.org/philippines/abu-sayyaf-group-philippines-islamist-sep...

[13]“In the Southern Philippines, the Peace Process Stumbles Forward.” Stratfor. 14 Sept. 2014. Web. 24 June 2015. <https://www.stratfor.com/analysis/southern-philippines-peace-process-stu...

[14]Aning, Jerome. “Misuari to Abu Sayyaf: Enough, we cannot tolerate you forever.” Philippine Daily Inquirer, 9 Feb. 2013. Web. 29 June 2015. <http://newsinfo.inquirer.net/355491/misuari-to-abu-sayyaf-enough-we-cann...

[15]Niksch, Larry. “Abu Sayyaf: Target of Philippine-U.S. Anti-Terrorism Cooperation.” CRS Report for Congress, 25 Jan. 2002. Web. 21 Aug. 2012. <http://fas.org/irp/crs/RL31265.pdf>

 

State Sponsors and External Influences

The ASG may have been secretly supported by Libya during the rule of Muammar el-Qaddafi. Qaddafi had previously demonstrated support for the Moro separatist movement in general, for example by sending funds and arms to the MILF.[1] Acting as negotiator, Libya was instrumental in securing the August 2000 release of six hostages who were kidnapped by the ASG, including three French citizens, a German and a South African. In return for the release, a charitable foundation led by Qaddafi’s son gave $25 million in supposed development aid to the Philippines’ southern region, although this money may have actually gone to the ASG.[2]Additionally, despite claims that no ransom was ever given, Qaddafi himself may have paid the ASG $6 million for the six hostages.[3] While Libya officially denounced the ASG’s kidnapping operations, the ASG reportedly received Libyan money multiple times during Qaddafi’s rule, under the guise of charitable or humanitarian donations. Mosques and Islamic schools in the region also received Libyan money.[4]

 



[1]Fisk, Robert. “The double-edged sword of Gaddafi’s links with the Philippines.” The Independent, 22 Aug. 2000. <http://www.independent.co.uk/news/world/asia/the-doubleedged-sword-of-ga...

[2]“Philippine hostages head for Libya.” BBC News. BBC, 28 Aug. 2000. Web. 29 June 2015. <http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/asia-pacific/898190.stm>,Fisk, Robert. “The double-edged sword of Gaddafi’s links with the Philippines.” The Independent, 22 Aug. 2000. <http://www.independent.co.uk/news/world/asia/the-doubleedged-sword-of-ga...

[3]“Philippine hostages head for Libya.” BBC News. BBC, 28 Aug. 2000. Web. 29 June 2015. <http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/asia-pacific/898190.stm>

[4]Niksch, Larry. “Abu Sayyaf: Target of Philippine-U.S. Anti-Terrorism Cooperation.” CRS Report for Congress, 25 Jan. 2002. Web. 21 Aug. 2012. <http://fas.org/irp/crs/RL31265.pdf>

 

Maps

The project develops a series of interactive diagrams that "map" relationships among groups and show how those relationships change over time. The user can change map settings to display different features (e.g., leadership changes), adjust the time scale, and trace individual groups.