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Al Qaeda in the Philippines!

Interesting article: Al-Qaida-linked militants kill 6, wound 5 on southern Philippine island by Associated Press / Manila published Tuesday, September 27, 2011

A recent article in the Washington Post mentioned an attack in the Philippines that came on the heels of another assault which had taken place two days earlier where armed gunmen had attacked a U.S funded school construction project. The assault was linked to Abu Sayyaf. So who are the Abu Sayyaf?


Abu Sayyaf (also known as al-Harakat al-Islamiyya) primarily operates in the southern Philippines with members traveling to Manila and other provinces in the country. It was reported that Abu Sayyaf had begun expanding into neighboring Malaysia and Indonesia by the early 1990s. The Abu Sayyaf is one of the smallest but strongest of the Islamic separatist groups in the Philippines. Abu Sayyaf seeks the establishment of an Iranian-style Islamic theocracy in the southern Philippines and as of June 2003 they are believed to number less than 500 operating out of in Basilan and Zamboanga Peninsula (see maps on right). Some Abu Sayyaf members have studied or worked in Saudi Arabia and developed ties to the mujahadeen while fighting and training in the war against the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan. The founder of Abu Sayyaf is Abdurajik Abubakar Janjalani, a teacher from Basilan, who studied Islamic theology and Arabic in Libya, Syria and Saudi Arabia during the 1980s. During the 1980s he also went to Afghanistan to fight against the Soviet Union and the Afghan government in Afghanistan. During that period, he is alleged to have met Osama Bin Laden and been given $6 million to establish a more Islamic group with the Moro National Liberation Front (M.N.L.F.) and the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (M.I.L.F.). M.N.L.F. is a nationalist political organization that struggles against the Philippine Government to achieve independence (In January 2011, an M.N.L.F commander estimated M.N.L.F strength was around 700-800 thousand members with firearms and non-combat members combined). M.I.L.F is an Islamist group located in the southern Philippines (The M.I.L.F established the formation of an independent Islamic state in the southern Philippines and took part in terrorist attacks and assassinations to achieve their goals. The government in Manila does not recognize their demands and sent troops into the southern Philippines to control the insurgency many times. The M.I.L.F was established in 1981 when Salamat Hashim and his followers split from the M.N.L.F, due to the M.N.L.F's reluctance to launch an insurgency against the Philippine government and its supporters, The M.I.L.F received support from Muammar Gaddafi, who was also involved with other groups in the Philippines, at the time). When Abdurajik Abubakar Janjalani returned home to Basilan Island in 1990, he gathered radical members of the old M.N.L.F. who wanted to resume armed struggle for an independent Islamic state and in 1991 established the Abu Sayyaf. By 1995 Abu Sayyaf was active in large scale bombings and attacks in the Philippines. As early as the 1990s, Al Qaeda presence in the Philippines was already established through the activities of Mohammad Jamal Khalifa who is the brother-in-law of Osama bin Laden. Ramsey Yousef, the perpetrator of the 1993 World Trade Center Bombing, went to the Philippines in 1994 to hide and design the Bojinka Plot, which aimed to bomb the twin tower of New York City using 11 jetliners. Khalik Sheid Mohammad, identified as the principal architect of 9/11 bombings, was also in the Philippines in 1995 to work with Yousef in designing the Bojinka Plot and the twin plots to assassinate Pope John Paul II and US President Bill Clinton. But the person that revealed Al Qaeda operations in the Philippines was Abdul Hakim Murad who was arrested in the Philippines in 1995 for his participation in the Bojinka Plot. The Abu Sayyaf's first attack was the assault on the town of Ipil in Mindanao in April 1995. The group expanded its operations to Malaysia in 2000 when it abducted foreigners from two different resorts (On May 3, 2000, Abu Sayyaf guerillas occupied the Malaysian dive resort island Sipadan and took 21 hostages, including 10 tourists and 11 resort workers - 19 non-Filipino nationals in total. The hostages were taken to an Abu Sayyaf base in Jolo, Sulu. Abu Sayyaf made various demands for the release of several prisoners, including 1993 World Trade Center bomber Ramzi Yousef). It was also responsible for the kidnapping and murder of more than 30 foreigners and Christian clerics and workers.  The military has intensified its intelligence operation against the Abu Sayyaf following the arrest of a Filipino-American (Victor Moore Infante) allegedly selling illegal weapons to the group. The United States in 2002 included the Abu Sayyaf in its list of foreign terrorist organization, alongside the Al-Qaeda network and the Indonesian-based Jemaah Islamiya. Philippine authorities tagged the group as behind the kidnapping and killing of two United States hostages Guillermo Sobero and Martin Burnham in Mindanao as well. But some say that after Bin Laden's death, his ideological inspiration "became his most important contribution." As a result, some contend his death will ultimately lead to the group's downfall. Recent intelligence-based operations undertaken by the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) resulted in the January capture of Umar Patek in Pakistan. He was a member of Jemaah Islameeyah (JI), another Southeast Asian al-Qaeda affiliate linked to Abu Sayyaf. Patek was travelling to meet bin Laden in Abbottabad when captured, Asia Times Online reported. With bin Laden dead and Patek captured, the ties between the groups "have been cut, perhaps irreparably." Last week, Philippine authorities also captured Andurahman Luy Andang, alias Abu Nas, another "notorious Abu Sayyaf bandit" blamed for kidnappings and beheadings, The Nation reported. The new Abu Sayyaf has become a loose network of a few rebels operating with many young Muslim mercenaries who have become established bandits and hardened criminals engaged in extortions, arms smuggling, drug trafficking and kidnapping for ransom. Some Abu Sayyaf adherents are protected by local warlords and corrupt public officials who are entrepreneurs of violence in Mindanao. As a result, the Abu Sayyaf has become resilient. It gets its staying power from the predatory politics and violent economies of Mindanao that create individuals to embrace violent extremism and terrorism. The 2010 Country Reports on Terrorism states that the Philippines continues to be one of the world’s terrorist safe havens despite the fact that terrorist acts in the country have declined in 2010. In short, I believe this organization is not going away, terrorism emanating largely from Abu Sayyaf and its cohorts continue to pose serious threats to Philippine national security as long as the remaining leaders of Abu Sayyaf prey on young and illiterate Muslim Filipinos to commit acts of terrorism.

 
References:
In the Spotlight: Moro Islamic Liberation Front". Terrorism - Terrorist Network. Archived from the original on 2008-07-09.
Terrorism - Terrorist Network - In the Spotlight: Moro Islamic Liberation Front". Cdi.org. 2002-02-15. Retrieved 2010-06-04.
MNLF: When? Who? Commentary by Particio P. Diaz, February 2011
US Dept of State Human Rights Report of 2009 for Philippines
Abu Sayyaf Group (ASG)". MIPT Terrorism Knowledge Base. Retrieved September 20, 2006.
FBI Updates Most Wanted Terrorists and Seeking Information – War on Terrorism Lists, FBI national Press Release, February 24, 2006
Rommel C. Banlaoi. "Abu Sayyaf Group: From Mere Banditry to Genuine Terrorism"
Abu Sayyaf History". U.S. Pacific Command. 2000-09-216.
Who are the Abu Sayyaf". London: BBC. 2000-12-30.
The Abu Sayyaf-Al Qaeda Connection-Abu Sayyaf Terrorist Group Alleged to Have Links to Al Qaeda". abc News International. Retrieved 20 December 2001.
Abu Sayyaf Group (Philippines, Islamist separatists). Council on Foreign relations. January 23, 2007. Retrieved 2008-02-18
"Manhunt" by Mark Bowden The Atlantic, March 2007, p.60
http://www.investigativeproject.org/2940/al-qaida-affiliate-future-in-question
http://nation.com.pk/pakistan-news-newspaper-daily-english-online/International/03-Jun-2011/How-Qaeda-threat-lingers
http://www.philstar.com/nation/article.aspx?publicationsubcategoryid=200&articleid=725458
2010 Country Reports on Terrorism-State Department

 

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