Abu Sayyaf

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This article is about the Filipino Islamist group. For individuals known as Abu Sayyaf and other uses, see Abu Sayyaf (disambiguation).
Abu Sayyaf
Participant in the Moro conflict in the Philippines, the Moro attacks on Malaysia, Military intervention against ISIL, and
the Global War on Terrorism
AQMI Flag asymmetric.svg
The Black Standard of ISIL, which was adopted by Abu Sayyaf
Active 1991–present
Ideology Islamism
Islamic fundamentalism
Leaders Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi (Leader of ISIL)
Abdurajik Abubakar Janjalani  [2]
Khadaffy Janjalani  [3]
Radullan Sahiron[4][5]
Isnilon Totoni Hapilon[6][7]
Mahmur Japuri [8]
Headquarters Jolo, Sulu, Philippines
Area of operations Philippines, Malaysia
Strength 300+[9]
Part of  Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant
Allies 14K Triad[10]
Flag of Jihad.svg al-Qaeda (formerly)
Opponents Philippines Government of the Philippines[11]
Australia Government of Australia[12]
Malaysia Government of Malaysia[13]
United States Government of the United States[14]

Abu Sayyaf (Listeni/ˌɑːb/ /sɑːˌjɔːf/; Arabic: جماعة أبو سياف‎; Jamāʿah Abū Sayyāf, ASG, Filipino: Grupong Abu Sayyaf)[15] is a militant Islamist group based in and around Jolo and Basilan islands in the southwestern part of the Philippines, where for more than four decades, Moro groups have been engaged in an insurgency for an independent province in the country. The group is considered very violent,[16] and was responsible for the Philippines' worst terrorist attack, the bombing of Superferry 14 in 2004, which killed 116 people.[17] The name of the group is derived from the Arabic ابو, abu ("father of") and sayyaf ("swordsmith").[18] As of 2012, the group was estimated to have between 200 and 400 members,[19] down from 1250 in 2000.[20] They use mostly improvised explosive devices, mortars, and automatic rifles.

Since its inception in 1991, the group has carried out bombings, kidnappings, assassinations, and extortion[21] in what they describe as their fight for an independent Islamic province in the Philippines.[22] They have also been involved in criminal activities, including kidnapping, rape, child sexual assault, drive-by shootings, extortion, and drug trafficking,[23] and the goals of the group "appear to have alternated over time between criminal objectives and a more ideological intent".[19]

The group has been designated as a terrorist group by the United Nations, Australia, Canada, the UAE, the United Kingdom and the United States.[22] In 2002, fighting Abu Sayyaf became a mission of the American military's Operation Enduring Freedom and part of the Global War on Terrorism.[24][25] Several hundred United States soldiers are also stationed in the area to mainly train local forces in counter terror and counter guerrilla operations, but as a status of forces agreement and under Philippine law are not allowed to engage in direct combat.[25]

The group was founded by Abdurajik Abubakar Janjalani, and led after his death in 1998 by his younger brother Khadaffy Janjalani who was killed in 2007. On July 23, 2014, Abu Sayyaf leader Isnilon Totoni Hapilon swore an oath of loyalty to Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, the leader of ISIL.[6] In September 2014, the group began kidnapping people to ransom, in the name of ISIL.[26]


In the early 1970s, the Moro National Liberation Front (M.N.L.F.) was the main Muslim rebel groups fighting in Basilan and Mindanao in the southern Philippines.[22]

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.[27][28] Abdurajik then went to Afghanistan to fight against the Soviet Union and the Afghan government during the Soviet war in Afghanistan in the 1980s. 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 M.N.L.F. in the southern Philippines, made up of members of the extant M.N.L.F.[29] By then, as a political solution in the southern Philippines, ARMM had been established in 1989.

Both Abdurajik Abubakar and his younger brother who succeeded him were natives of Isabela City, currently one of the poorest cities of the Philippines. Located on the North-Western part of the island of Basilan, Isabela is also the capital of Basilan province, across the Isabela Channel from the Malamwi Island. 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.

Abdurajik Abubakar Janjalani leadership (1989–1998)[edit]

M.N.L.F. had moderated into an established political government, the ARMM. It was established in 1989, fully institutionalized by 1996 and which eventually became the ruling government in southern Mindanao.

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.[22]

Janjalani was provided some funding by a Saudi Islamist, Mohammed Jamal Khalifa, who came to the Philippines in 1987 or 1988 and was head of the Philippine branch of the International Islamic Relief Organization foundation. A defector from Abu Sayyaf told Filipino authorities, "The IIRO was behind the construction of Mosques, school buildings and other livelihood projects" but only "in areas penetrated, highly influenced and controlled by the Abu Sayyaf." According to the defector "Only 10 to 30% of the foreign funding goes to the legitimate relief and livelihood projects and the rest go to terrorist operations."[30][31][32][33] Khalifa had married a local woman, Alice "Jameelah" Yabo,[34]

By 1995 Abu Sayyaf was active in large scale bombings and attacks in the Philippines. The Abu Sayyaf's first attack was the 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, Abdurajik Abubakar Janjalani was killed in a gun battle with the Philippine National Police on Basilan Island.[35] He is thought to have been about age 39 at the time of his death.[28] The death of Aburajik Abubakar Janjalani marked a turning point in Abu Sayyaf operations, shifting from its ideological focus to more general kidnappings, murders and robberies, as the younger brother Khadaffy Janjalani succeeded Abdurajak.

Consequently, being on the social or political division line, Basilan, Jolo and Sulu have seen some of the fiercest fighting between government troops and the Muslim separatist group Abu Sayyaf through the early 1990s. The Abu Sayyaf 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 neighbouring Malaysia and Indonesia by the early 1990s.

The Abu Sayyaf is one of the smallest, but strongest of the Islamist separatist groups in the Philippines. Some Abu Sayyaf members have studied or worked in Saudi Arabia and developed ties to mujahadeen while fighting and training in the war against the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan.[27] Abu Sayyaf proclaimed themselves as mujahideen and freedom fighters but are not supported by many people in the Philippines including its Muslim clerics.

Khadaffy Janjalani leadership (1999–2007)[edit]

Until his death in a gunbattle on September 4, 2006, Khaddafy Janjalani was considered the nominal leader of the group by the Armed Forces of the Philippines. The 23-year-old Khadaffy Janjalani then took leadership of one of Abu Sayyaf's factions in an internecine struggle.[35][36] He then worked to consolidate his leadership of the Abu Sayyaf, causing the group to appear inactive for a period. After Janjalani's leadership was secured, the Abu Sayyaf began a new strategy, as they proceeded to take hostages.

The group's motive for kidnapping became more financial than 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.[29] The group expanded its operations to Malaysia in 2000 when it abducted foreigners from two resorts. This action was condemned by most leaders in the Islamic world.

It was also responsible for the kidnapping and murder of more than 30 foreigners and Christian clerics and workers, including Martin and Gracia Burnham.[37][38]

A commander named Abu Sabaya was killed in 2002 while trying to evade forces.[39]

Galib Andang, one of the leaders of the group, was captured in Sulu in December 2003.[35][37][40][41]

An explosion at a military base in Jolo on February 18, 2006 was blamed on Abu Sayyaf by Brig. General Alexander Aleo, an Army officer.[42]

Khadaffy Janjalani was indicted in the United States District Court for the District of Columbia for his alleged involvement in terrorist attacks, including hostage taking by Abu Sayyaf and murder, against United States nationals and other foreign nationals in and around the Republic of the Philippines.[43]

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 the Abu Sayyaf, including Isnilon Totoni Hapilon and Jainal Antel Sali, Jr.[44][45]

On December 13, 2006, it was reported that Abu Sayyaf members 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 Cebu City where the summit was scheduled to take place.[46]

On December 27, 2006, the Philippine military reported that Janjalani's remains had been recovered near Patikul, in Jolo in the 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 in Sulu.

Present time (2010-2014)[edit]

In a video published in the summer of 2014, senior Abu Sayyaf leader Isnilon Hapilon and other masked men swear their allegiance or “bay'ah” to the "Islamic State" (ISIS) caliph. “We pledge to obey him on anything which our hearts desire or not and to value him more than anyone else. We will not take any emir (leader) other than him unless we see in him any obvious act of disbelief that could be questioned by Allah in the hereafter.”[47] For many years prior to this Islamic State's competitor, Al Qaeda, had the support of Abu Sayyaf "through various connections." [47] Observers were skeptical of whether the pledge would lead to Abu Sayyaf becoming an ISIS outpost in Southeast Asia, or was simply a way for the group to taking advantage of the international publicity Islamic State is getting.[47]

Motivation, beliefs, targets[edit]

Filipino Islamist guerillas such as Abu Sayyaf, have been described as “rooted in a distinct class made up of closely knit networks built through marriage of important families through socioeconomic backgrounds and family structures," according to Michael Buehler, a lecturer in comparative politics at the University of London’s School of Oriental and African Studies. This tight-knit, familial structure provides resilience but also limits their ability to expand.[47] The commander of the Philippines military’s Western Mindanao Command Lieutenant General Rustico Guerrero, also describes Abu Sayyaf as "a local group with a local agenda."[47]

Two kidnapping victims, (Martin and Gracia Burnham) who were kept in captivity by ASG for over a year, "gently engaged their captors in theological discussion" and found Abu Sayyaf fighters to be unfamiliar with the Qur'an. They had only "a sketchy" notion of Islam, which they saw as "a set of behavioral rules, to be violated when it suited them", according to author Mark Bowden. As "holy warriors, they were justified in kidnapping, killing and stealing. Having sex with women captives was justified by their claiming them as "wives".[48]

Unlike the Moro Islamic Liberation Front and Moro National Liberation Front, the group is not recognized by the Organisation of Islamic Cooperation, and according to author Dr Robert (Bob) East, was seen as "nothing more than a criminal operation" at least prior to 2001.[49]

A Center for Strategic and International Studies report by Jack Fellman notes the political rather than religious motivation of ASG. He quotes ASG leader Khadaffy Janjalain's statement that his brother (the former leader of ASG) was right to split from the more moderate NMLF because "up to now, nothing came out" of attempts to gain more autonomy for Moro Muslims. This suggests, Fellman believes, that ASG "is merely the latest, albeit most violent, iteration of Moro political dissatisfaction that has existed for the last several decades."[50]


Most of the Abu Sayyaf victims have been Filipinos. However, Australian, British, Canadian, Chinese, French, German and Malaysian tourists, businessmen and police have been targeted. Westerners, especially Americans, have been targeted for political and racial reasons. A spokesman for the Abu Sayyaf has stated that, "We have been trying hard to get an American because they may think we are afraid of them". He added, "We want to fight the American people".[51] In 1993, Abu Sayyaf kidnapped an American Bible translator in the southern Philippines. In 2000, Abu Sayyaf captured an American Muslim visiting Jolo and demanded that the United States release Sheikh Omar Abdel Rahman and Ramzi Yousef, who were jailed for their involvement in the World Trade Center bombing of 1993.

A Japanese businessman was killed when a Cebu to Tokyo Philippine Airlines flight was bombed on December 10, 1994 by Abu Sayyaf.[52] While the body of Korean hostage Nwi Seong Hong, who had been held by Abu Sayyaf, was found in 2012.[53][54][55]



In the Philippines[edit]

Jeffrey Schilling[edit]

Jeffrey Schilling, an American citizen and Muslim convert, was held by Abu Sayyaf for 8 months after being captured while visiting a terrorist camp with his wife, Ivy Osani. Abu Sayyaf demanded a $10 million ransom for his release, but Schilling escaped after more than 7 months and was picked up by the Philippine Marine Corps on April 12, 2001.[56][57]

Many commentators have been critical of Schilling, who had reportedly walked into the camp. Schilling claims to have been invited by his wife's distant cousin who was a member of Abu Sayyaf.[58]

Martin and Gracia Burnham[edit]

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 North Americans, Martin and Gracia Burnham, a missionary couple, and Guillermo Sobero, a Peruvian-American tourist who was later beheaded by Abu Sayyaf, for whom Abu Sayyaf demanded $1 million in ransom.[59] The hostages and hostage-takers then returned hundreds of kilometres back across the Sulu Sea to the Abu Sayyaf's territories in Mindanao.[60]

According to author Mark Bowden, the leader of the raid was Abu Sabaya. According to Gracia Burnham, she 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."[60]

On June 7, 2002, about a year after the raid, Philippine army troops conducted a rescue operation in which two of the three hostages held, Martin Burnham and Filipino nurse, Ediborah Yap, were killed. The remaining hostage was wounded and the hostage takers escaped.

In July 2004, Gracia Burnham testified at a trial of eight Abu Sayyaf members and identified six of the suspects as being her erstwhile captors, including Alhamzer Limbong, 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."[61]

Alhamzer Limbong was later killed in a prison uprising.[62]

Gracia Burnham has claimed that Philippine military officials were colluding with her captors, saying that the Armed Forces of the Philippines "didn't pursue us...As time went on, we noticed that they never pursued us".[63]

Journalists abducted since 2000[edit]

ABS-CBN's Newsbreak reported that Abu Sayyaf abducted at least 20 journalists since 2000 (mostly foreign journalists) and all of them were eventually released upon payment of ransom.

Ces Drilon and cameramen Jimmy Encarnacion and Angelo Valderama were the latest of its kidnap victims. The journalists held captive were

  1. GMA-7 television reporter Susan Enriquez (April 2000, Basilan, a few days);
  2. 10 Foreign journalists (7 German, 1 French, 1 Australian and 1 Danish, on May 2000, Jolo, for 10 hours);
  3. German Andreas Lorenz of the magazine Der Spiegel (July 2000, Jolo, for 25 days; he was also kidnapped in May);
  4. French television reporter Maryse Burgot and cameraman Jean-Jacques Le Garrec and sound technician Roland Madura (July 2000, Jolo, for 2 months);
  5. ABS-CBN television reporter Maan Macapagal and cameraman Val Cuenca (July 2000, Jolo, for 4 days);
  6. Philippine Daily Inquirer contributor and Net 25 television reporter Arlyn de la Cruz (January 2002, Zamboanga, for 3 months)
  7. GMA-7 television reporter Carlo Lorenzo and cameraman Gilbert Ordiales (September 2002, Jolo, for 6 days).[64]
2009 Red Cross kidnapping[edit]

On January 15, 2009, Abu Sayyaf kidnapped International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) delegates in Patikul, Sulu province, Philippines. The three ICRC workers had finished conducting field work in Sulu province, located in the southwest of the country, when they were abducted by an unknown group, later confirmed as Abu Sayyaf leader Albader Parad's group. Parad himself was said to be involved in the kidnapping.[65] All three workers were eventually released. According to a CNN story, Parad was reportedly killed, along with five other militants, in an assault raid by Philippine marines in Sulu province on Sunday, February 21, 2010.

Warren Rodwell[edit]
Warren Rodwell

Warren Richard Rodwell (born June 16, 1958[66] Homebush NSW)[67] a former soldier[68] in the Australian Army, and university English teacher,[69] grew up in Tamworth NSW[70] He was shot through the right hand when seized[71] from his home at Ipil, Zamboanga Sibugay on the island of Mindanao in the southern Philippines on December 5, 2011[72] by Abu Sayyaf (ASG) militants.[73] Rodwell later had to have a finger amputated.[74]

The ASG threatened to behead Rodwell[75] if the original ransom demand for $US2 million was not paid.[76] Both the Philippine and Australian governments had strict policies of refusing to pay ransoms.[77] Australia formed a multi-agency task force to assist the Philippine authorities, and liaise with Rodwell's family.[78] A news blackout was imposed.[79] Filipino politicians helped negotiate the release.[80] After the payment of $AUD94,000[81] for "board and lodging" expenses[82] by his siblings, Rodwell was released 472 days later on March 23, 2013.[83] The incumbent Australian prime minister praised the Philippines government for securing Rodwell's release. Tribute was also made to Australian officials from the Department of Foreign Affairs, the Australian Federal Police and Defence.[84] Rodwell subsequently returned to Australia.[85]

As part of the 2015 Australia Day Honours, Australian Army Lieutenant Colonel Paul Joseph Barta was awarded the Conspicuous Service Cross (CSC) for outstanding devotion to duty as the Assistant Defence Attaché Manila during the Australian whole of government response to the Rodwell kidnap for ransom (and immediately following, the devastation of Typhoon Haiyan). At the 2015 Australian Federal Police Foundation Day award ceremony in Canberra, fourteen AFP members received the Commissioners’ Group Citation for Conspicuous Conduct for their work in support of the Philippine National Police and Australian Government efforts to release Australian man Warren Rodwell.[86]

By the end of his 15 months as a hostage in the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao, Rodwell had lost about 30 kilograms in weight due to starvation,[87] His biography 472 Days Captive of the Abu Sayyaf - The Survival of Australian Warren Rodwell by independent researcher Dr Robert (Bob) East was published by Cambridge Scholars Publishing, United Kingdom (2015) ISBN 1-4438-7058-7[88] In popular culture, Blue Mountains (Sydney) techno Cowpunk band Mad Cowboy Disease composed, performed and released Situation Not Normal, a song written by Rodwell, based on his ordeal.[89]

Award-winning Filipino journalist and CEO of Rappler,[90] Maria A. Ressa wrote at some length about the Warren Rodwell case in the 2013 international edition of her Imperial College Press - published book From Bin Laden to Facebook: 10 Days of Abduction, 10 Years of Terrorism ISBN 978-1-908979-53-7 [91] (Refer to Pages 265 - 271) Crowdsourcing for ransom, and social media (such as, Facebook and YouTube) were used by Abu Sayyaf during negotiations. The author asserts on Page 270; "Social media is changing what was once a closed dialogue between kidnappers, their victims and governments."

Also, Colonel (reserve) in the Israel Defence Forces and research fellow at the International Institute for Counter-Terrorism (ICT), Dr Shaul Shay, analysed the Warren Rodwell terror abduction in: Global Jihad and The Tactic of Terror Abduction : A Comprehensive Review of Islamic Terrorist Organisations. ISBN 978-1-84519-611-0 (Refer to Chapter 10) (Sussex Academic Press). [92]

In January 2015, Mindanao Examiner newspaper reported the arrest of Barahama Ali[93] kidnap gang sub-leaders linked to the kidnapping of Warren Rodwell, who was seized by at least 5 gunmen (disguised as policemen), and eventually handed over or sold by the kidnappers to the Abu Sayyaf in Basilan province.[94]

In May 2015, ex-Philippine National Police (PNP) officer Jun A. Malban was arrested in Kota Kinabalu, Malaysia for the crime of "Kidnapping for Ransom" after Rodwell identified him as the negotiator/spokesperson of the Abu Sayyaf Group during his captivity. Further PNP investigation revealed that Malban is the cousin of Abu Sayyaf leaders Khair Mundos and his brother Borhan Mundos. (Both were arrested in 2014).[95] The director of the Anti-Kidnapping Group (AKG) stated that Malban's arrest resulted from close coordination by the PNP, National Bureau of Investigation (Philippines) and Presidential Anti-Organized Crime Commission with the Malaysian counterparts and through Interpol.[96]

In August 2015, Edeliza Sumbahon Ulep,[97] alias Gina Perez, was arrested at Trento, Agusan del Sur during a joint manhunt operation by police and military units. Ulep was tagged as the ransom courier of the Abu Sayyaf bandits in Zamboanga Sibugay in the kidnapping of Rodwell.[98]

In Malaysia[edit]

2000 Sipadan kidnappings[edit]

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.[99]

Two Muslim Malaysians were released soon after, however Abu Sayyaf made various demands for the release of several prisoners, including 1993 World Trade Center bomber Ramzi Yousef and $2.4 million. In July, a Filipino television evangelist and 12 of his crew offered their help and went as mediators for the relief of other hostages.[100] They, three French television crew members and a German journalist, all visiting Abu Sayyaf on Jolo, were also taken hostage.[101] Most hostages were released in August and September 2000, partly due to mediation by Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi and an offer of $25 million in "development aid".[102]

Abu Sayyaf conducted a second raid on the island of Pandanan near Sipadan on September 10 and seized three more Malaysians.[103] The Philippine army launched a major offensive on September 16, 2000, rescuing all remaining hostages, except Filipino dive instructor Roland Ullah. He was eventually freed in 2003.[99]

Abu Sayyaf coordinated with the Chinese 14K Triad gang in carrying out the kidnappings.[104] The 14K Triad has militarily supported Abu Sayyaf.[10]

2013 Pom Pom kidnappings[edit]

On November 15, 2013, Abu Sayyaf militants raided a resort on a Malaysian island of Pom Pom in Semporna, Sabah.[105][106] During the ambush, Taiwanese citizen Chang An-wei was kidnapped and her husband, Hsu Li-min, was killed.[107] Chang was taken to the Sulu Archipelago in the southern Philippines.[105] Gene Yu, an American and former US Army Special Forces captain was instrumental in negotiating, locating and working to free Taiwanese citizen Chang An-wei from Abu Sayyaf militants with Filipino special forces and private security contractors in 2013. Chang was freed in Sulu Province and returned to Taiwan on December 21.[108][109][110]

2014 Singamata resort, Baik Island and Kampung Air Sapang fish farm kidnappings[edit]

On April 2, 2014, a group believed to originate from Abu Sayyaf militants raided a resort off Semporna, Sabah.[111][112] During the raid, Gao Huayun, a Chinese tourist from Shanghai and Marcy Dayawan, a Filipino resort worker who was on the resort were kidnapped and taken to the Sulu Archipelago.[111][113] The two hostages were later rescued after a collaboration between the Malaysian and the Philippines security forces.[114][115]

On May 6, 2014, a group comprising five Abu Sayyaf gunmen raided a Malaysian fish farm in Baik Island, Sabah and kidnapped the fish farm manager, after which the hostage was brought to Jolo island.[116][117] He was later freed on July with the help of Malaysian negotiators.[118]

On June 16, 2014, two gunmen believed to be from the Abu Sayyaf group kidnapped another Chinese fish farm manager and one Filipino in Kampung Air Sapang, Kunak, Sabah.[119][120] One of the kidnap victims, a Filipino fish farm worker, managed to escape and went missing.[121][122] Meanwhile, the fish farm manager was taken to Jolo.[123] He was later released on December 10.[124]

The Malaysian authorities have identified five Filipinos, the "Muktadir brothers", as behind all of the kidnapping cases. They then sell their hostages to the Abu Sayyaf group.[125]

2015 Ocean Seafood Restaurant kidnappings[edit]

On May 15, 2015, four armed men from the Abu Sayyaf-based group abducted two people in a resort in Sandakan, Sabah and brought them to Parang, Sulu.[126][127] One of the hostage was released on November 9, after six months in captivity,[128] while another one, Bernard Then, was beheaded due to ransom demands not being met.[129][130]

Superferry 14 Bombing[edit]

Main article: Superferry 14

Superferry 14 was a large ferry destroyed by a bomb on February 27, 2004, killing 116 people in the Philippines' worst terrorist attack and the world's deadliest terrorist attack at sea.[17]

On that day, the 10,192 ton ferry sailed out of Manila with about 900 passengers and crew on board. A television set filled with 8 lb. (4 kilograms) of TNT had been placed on board. 90 minutes out of port, the bomb exploded. 63 people were killed instantly and 53 went missing and presumed dead.

Despite claims from terrorist groups, the blast was initially thought to have been an accident caused by a gas explosion. However, after divers righted the ferry five months after it had sunk, they found evidence of a bomb blast. A man called Redendo Cain Dellosa also admitted to planting the bomb on board for Abu Sayyaf.

Philippine president Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo announced on October 11, 2004 that investigators had concluded the explosion was caused by a bomb.[131] She said six suspects had been arrested in connection with the bombing and that the masterminds, Khadaffy Janjalani and Abu Sulaiman, have been killed. But the ASG continues to pose a threat to Philippine security.[132]

Supporters and funding[edit]

Abdurajik Abubakar Janjalani’s first recruits were soldiers of the Moro National Liberation Front (M.N.L.F.) and the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (M.I.L.F.). However, the M.I.L.F. and M.N.L.F. deny having links with Abu Sayyaf. Both officially distance themselves from Abu Sayyaf because of its attacks on civilians and its supposed profiteering. The Philippine military, however, has claimed that elements of both groups provide support to the Abu Sayyaf.

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,[133] and the Philippine government considers the Abu Sayyaf as a part of Jemaah Islamiyah.[35] The government also notes that initial funding for ASG in the 1990s came from al-Qaeda through the brother-in-law of Osama bin Laden, Mohammed Jamal Khalifa, through Islamic charities in the region.[35][134][135][136][137]

Al-Qaeda-affiliated terrorist Ramzi Yousef operated in the Philippines in the mid-1990s and trained Abu Sayyaf soldiers.[138] The 2002 edition of the United State Department’s Patterns of Global Terrorism mention links to Al-Qaeda.

Continuing ties to Islamist groups in the Middle East indicate that al-Qaeda may be continuing support.[28][139][140]

As of mid 2005, Jemaah Islamiyah personnel reportedly had trained about 60 Abu Sayyarf cadre in bomb assembling and detonations.[141][142][143]


The group obtains most of its financing through ransom and extortion.[144] 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.

It was reported that Libya facilitated ransom payments to Abu Sayyaf. Libya was also suggested that Libyan money could possibly be channeled to Abu Sayyaf.[145]

Russian intelligence agencies connected with Victor Bout's planes have reportedly provided Abu Sayyaf with arms.[146][147]

Military action against[edit]

The military has intensified its intelligence operation against the Abu Sayyaf following the arrest of a Filipino-American allegedly selling illegal weapons to the Al-Qaeda linked group. Security forces have arrested Victor Moore Infante in Zamboanga for selling weapons to the extremist group. The 34-year-old man was tagged by authorities as "one of the United States most wanted fugitives."

His arrest was made secret and announced by the Bureau of Immigration and Deportation. Infante, who was reported to have traveled to Basilan, a stronghold of the Abu Sayyaf, had been deported to Guam. Federal agents escorted the Filipino-American, who was also suspected of planning to smuggle illegal drugs to the Philippines. United States authorities have issued a warrant for the arrest of Infante in New York after Customs men in July 2003 seized one of his package from Oakland containing weapons’ parts addressed to his safehouse in Zamboanga City.

"His arrest and deportation is another big step in our campaign against terrorism because this man is known to have aided the Abu Sayyaf in acquiring weapons used by the group in committing atrocities against our soldiers and civilians," Philippine immigration chief Andrea Domingo said in a statement.


The Libyan envoy accused the group of inhumanity and violating the tenets of Islam by holding innocent people. Abdul Rajab Azzarouq, former ambassador to the Philippines, criticised the kidnappers for holding people who have nothing to do with the conflict. The hostage-takers should not use religion as a reason to keep the hostages isolated from their families, he said.

Sheikh Yusuf al-Qaradawi in Qatar has denounced the kidnapping and killings committed by the Abu Sayyaf towards civilians and foreigners, asserting that they are not part of the dispute between the Abu Sayyaf and the Philippines government. He stated that it is shameful to commit such acts in the name of the Islamic faith, saying that such acts produce backlashes against Islam and Muslims worldwide. It is known that Qaradawi supports the rights of Muslims in Philippines. Qaradawi spoke of the importance of education in the life of Muslims, stating that educational institutions in the Muslim world should review their educational philosophy in order that it may reflect Islamic values aiming to create pious Muslims good to themselves and non-Muslims as well.

The Organisation of the Islamic Conference (OIC) condemned the Sipadan kidnapping and offered to help secure their release. OIC Secretary General Azeddine Laraki who represents the world's largest Islamic body, told the Philippine government he was prepared to send an envoy to help save the hostages and issued a statement condemning the rebels. "The Secretary General has pointed out that this operation and the like are rejected by divine laws and that they are neither the appropriate nor correct means to resolve conflicts," the statement said.

List of attacks attributed to Abu Sayyaf[edit]


  • April 23 – Abu Sayyaf gunmen raid the Malaysian diving resort of Sipadan, off Borneo and flee across the sea border to their Jolo island stronghold with 10 Western tourists and 11 resort workers.
  • May 27 – The kidnappers issue political demands including a separate Muslim state, an inquiry into alleged human rights abuses in Sabah and the restoration of fishing rights. They later demand cash multimillion-dollar ransoms.
  • July 1 – Filipino television evangelist Wilde Almeda of the Jesus Miracle Crusade (J.M.C.) and 12 of his followers visited the Abu Sayyaf headquarters. A German journalist is seized the following day.
  • July 9 – A three-member French television crew was abducted.
  • August 27 – French, South African and German hostages are freed.
  • August 28 – United States Muslim convert Jeffrey Schilling is abducted.
  • September 9 – Finnish, German and French hostages are freed.
  • September 10 – Abu Sayyaf raids Pandanan island near Sipadan and seizes three Malaysians.
  • September 16 – The government troops launch military assault against Abu Sayyaf in Jolo. Two kidnapped French journalists escape during the fighting.
  • October 2 – J.M.C. Evangelist Wilde Almeda and 12 "prayer warriors" were released.
  • October 25 – Troops rescue the three Malaysians seized in Pandanan.


  • April 12 – Jeffrey Schilling is rescued, leaving Filipino scuba diving instructor, Roland Ullah, in the gunmen's hands.
  • May 22 – Suspected Abu Sayyaf gunmen raid the luxurious Pearl Farm beach resort on Samal island in southern Philippines, killing two resort workers wounding three others, but no hostages were taken.
  • May 28 – Suspected Abu Sayyaf gunmen raid the Dos Palmas resort off the western Philippines island of Palawan and seize 18 hostages including a United States couple and former Manila Times owner Reghis Romero. Arroyo rules out ransom and orders the military to go after the kidnappers.
  • May 29 – Malacañang imposes a news blackout in Basilan province where the Abu Sayyaf are reported to have gone.
  • May 30 – United States Department Spokesman Philip Reeker calls for the "swift, safe and unconditional release of all the hostages." An Olympus camera and an ATM card of one the hostages are found in Cagayan de Tawi-Tawi island. Pictures of Abu Sayyaf leaders are released to media by the Armed Forces of the Philippines.
  • May 31 – The military fails to locate the bandits and the hostages despite search and rescue operations in Jolo, Basilan and Cagayan de Tawi-Tawi.
  • June 1 – Military troops engage Abu Sayyaf bandits in Tuburan town in Basilan. Abu Sayyaf spokesman Abu Sabaya threatens to behead two of the hostages.
  • June 2 – Abu Sayyaf invaded Lamitan town and seize the José Maria Torres Memorial Hospital and the Saint Peter's church. Soldiers surround the bandits and engage them in a day-long firefight. Several hostages, including businessman Reghis Romero, were able to escape. Witnesses say the bandits escape from Lamitan at around 5:30 in the afternoon, taking four medical personnel from the hospital.
  • June 3 – Soldiers recover the decapitated bodies of hostages Sonny Dacquer and Armando Bayona in Barangay Bulanting.
  • June 4 – Military officials ask for a state of emergency in Basilan. President Gloria Arroyo turns the request down.
  • June 5 – At least 16 soldiers are reported killed and 44 others wounded during a firefight between government troops and Abu Sayyaf members in Mount Sinangkapan in Tuburan town. President Arroyo promises 5 million pesos to the family of retired Col. Fernando Bajet for killing Abu Sayyaf leader Abu Sulayman on June 2, 2000. Abu Sayyaf leaders contact a government designated intermediary for possible negotiations.
  • June 6 – Abu Sayyaf leader Abu Sabaya tells Radio Mindanao Network that United States hostage Martin Burnham sustained a gunshot wound on the back during a recent exchange of gunfire.


  • July 21 – A provincial governor and three others were wounded when fighters of the Abu Sayyaf ambushed them in the southern Philippines, the military said.
  • August – Six Filipino Jehovah's Witnesses were kidnapped and two of them were beheaded.[148]
  • October 2 – One American serviceman was killed and another seriously injured by a bomb blast in Zamboanga City.[149]


  • February 12 – The Philippines expelled an Iraqi diplomat, accusing the envoy of having ties to the Abu Sayyaf terrorist group. Second Secretary Husham Husain has been given 48 hours to leave the country, according to a statement by Philippine Foreign Secretary Blas Ople. The government said it had intelligence that the Iraqi diplomat has ties to the Islamic extremist group. The decision was taken more than a month before the 2003 invasion of Iraq.
  • March 5 – Abu Sayyaf claimed responsibility for the bombings in Davao International Airport in the southern Philippines, killing 21 and injuring 148.[150]


  • February 24 – A bomb explodes on Superferry 14 off the coast of Manila, causing it to sink and killing 116 people. This attack is the worst terrorist attack at sea.
  • April 9 – A key leader of the Islamic terrorist group Abu Sayyaf was killed, along with five of his men, during a gun battle with government troops in the southern Philippines. Hamsiraji Sali and his men were killed when a platoon of the Philippine army's elite Scout Rangers, who had been on the terrorists' trail, attacked them around midday on the island of Basilan, an Abu Sayyaf stronghold about 885 kilometres, or 550 miles, south of the capital, Manila. Four government soldiers, including a commanding officer, were injured.
  • April 10 – Around 50 prisoners including many suspected members of the Abu Sayyaf escaped from jail in the southern Philippines, the officials said. Three of the escaped prisoners were later killed and three others have since been recaptured, while three jail guards were wounded in the incident on the island of Basilan. They still did not have a full headcount of those who escaped, but local army commander Colonel Raymundo Ferrer said 53 of the 137 prisoners in the jail on the outskirts of Isabela City had broken out.[151]


  • February 14 – The Valentine's Day bombings took place in three major cities of the Philippines namely; Makati City, Davao City and General Santos City. The incidents claimed numerous lives (including children), injuries and big amount of damaged properties. Immediately after an hour there was a claimed coming from the Abu Sayyaf Chieftain Khadaffy Janjalani and Abu Solaiman via media interview that the bombings were the terrorists' Valentines gift to the lady in Malacanang President Gloria Arroyo and to the citizenry to praise their belief. This was recorded as terrorist attack that caused the biggest downfall effects in the Philippine economic history in terms of tourism industry, foreign investors and socioeconomic undertakings of the people. The issuance of travel advisories from numerous nations was paramount after the incident.
  • March 15 – Several Abu Sayyaf top leaders attempted to escape from the Camp Bagong Diwa in Bicutan, Taguig City. They killed 4 government soldiers in revenge of killing his 2 men. They barricaded the S.I.C.A compound. This started the Bagong Diwa siege. 29 hours later, the Special Action Force of the Philippine National Police sieges the compound, killing 22 men, including its leaders.
  • November 17 – A prominent leader of the Islamist group Abu Sayyaf, Jatib Usman, has been killed in ongoing clashes between rebels and the military. Usman was confronted in the most southeastern province of Tawi-Tawi, an island region which is close to the Borneo coast of Malaysia.[152]


  • February 3 – Suspected Abu Sayyaf gunmen knocked on the door of a farm in Patikul, Mindanao and opened fire after asking residents if they were Christians or from another religion. Six people are confirmed dead, including a nine-month baby girl and five others are seriously wounded.
  • March 20 – Declassified documents seized from Saddam Hussein’s government were said to have revealed that Al-Qaeda agents financed by Saddam entered the Philippines through the country’s southern backdoor.[153]
  • September 19 – A Filipino Marine officer was killed after the government forces encountered a large group of Abu Sayyaf terrorists earlier day in the outskirts of Patikul town in Sulu, southern Philippines, a military official reported. Five Marine soldiers also were wounded in the clash with some 80 terrorists believed to be led by Abu Sayyaf leader Radullan Sahiron, alias commander Putol, one of the top terrorist leader based in Sulu province, said the spokesman.


  • January 17 – Abu Sayyaf leader, Abu Sulaiman is killed in a gun battle against the Philippine Army in Jolo.[154]
  • July 11 – Eight Filipino government soldiers were killed, nine others injured and six missing following a gun battle against Abu Sayyaf soldiers, supported by armed villagers in the southern island province of Basilan, according to a military source.
  • August – The military said it lost 26 soldiers and killed around 30 militants in three days of fighting on the volatile island of Jolo, in the beginning of month. The heaviest toll occurred after militants ambushed a military convoy.[155]


  • January 17 – Abu Sayyaf militants raided a convent in Tawi-Tawi and killed a Catholic missionary during a kidnapping attempt.[156]
  • February 14 – Failed assassination plot of the President of the Philippines, Gloria Arroyo.
  • June 8 – ABS-CBN Journalist Ces Drilon and her TV Crew kidnapped. 10 days later they were released after families paid a portion of the ransom.
  • September 23 – A mid-level leader of the Abu Sayyaf group and a follower surrendered to the Marine Battalion Landing Team-5 (MBLT-5) in Sulu province. Colonel Eugenio Clemen, chief of the 3rd Marine Brigade, identified the bandits who surrendered as Hadjili Hari and Faizal Dali, his son-in-law.[157]


  • January 15 – Three Red Cross officials, Swiss Andreas Notter, Filipino Mary Jane Lacaba and Italian Eugenio Vagni were kidnapped. Andreas Notter and Mary Jane Lacaba were released four months later.[158] Eugenio Vagni was released six months later on July 12.[159]
  • April 14 – Abu Sayyaf militants executed Cosme Aballes, one of two hostages they took during a raid on a Christian community in Lamitan City in Basilan on Good Friday, the military said. The bandits were with members of the Moro Islamic Liberation Front and of kidnap for ransom groups. Aballes and Ernan Chavez were taken by at least 40 Abu Sayyaf, rogue M.N.L.F. rebels and KFR elements when they raided Sitio Arco in Lamitan City. On their way out, the kidnappers shot dead a resident, Jacinto Clemente.
  • May 18 – Abu Sayyaf militants in Basilan beheaded a 61-year-old man who was abducted from this city about three weeks before, the police said.[160]
  • July 12 – The Italian Red Cross hostage, Eugenio Vagni, was released.[161]
  • August 12 – A group of Abu Sayyaf militants and members of the M.N.L.F. ambushed a group of A.F.P. (Armed Forces of the Philippines) soldiers as they conducted a clearing operation in the mountains of Tipo-Tipo, Basilan. 23 A.F.P. soldiers were killed in the engagement, 20 of which were members of the Philippine Marines Corps. In addition, 31 Abu Sayyaf militants were killed in an initial body count.[162]
  • September 21 – A.F.P. overran a camp in the south belonging to the Abu Sayyaf, killing nearly 20 militants. 5 A.F.P. were wounded.[163]
  • September 29 – Two United States soldiers were killed in Jolo, near the town of Indanan, by Abu Sayyaf militants.[164]
  • October 14 – An Irish-born priest was kidnapped from outside his home near Pagadian city in Mindanao.[165] He was released on November 11, 2009.[166]
  • November 9 – A school teacher in Jolo was captured on October 19 and beheaded by Abu Sayyaf militants.[167]
  • November 10 – Abu Sayyaf militants captured several Chinese and Filipino nationals in Basilan.[168][169]


  • January 21 – Suspected Abu Sayyaf militants detonated a bomb near the house of a Basilan province mayor. One teenager was injured.[170]
  • February 21 – One Abu Sayyaf senior leaders, Albader Parad, has been killed.[171]
  • February 27 – Suspected Abu Sayyaf militants killed one militiaman and 12 civilians in Maluso.[172]
  • March 16 – Suspected Abu Sayyaf militants killed a police officer in Zamboanga.[173]


  • January 12 – Four traveling merchants and a guide were killed and one wounded when suspected Abu Sayyaf militants ambushed them in Basilan.[174]
  • January 18 – One soldier was killed when government forces clashed with Abu Sayyaf militants in the province of Basilan.[175]
  • December 5 - Australian national Warren Rodwell was shot through the hand when kidnapped from his home at Ipil, Zamboanga Sibugay. He was released on March 23, 2013 in exchange for cash.[176]


  • February 1 – Dutch national Ewold Horn and Swiss citizen Lorenzo Vinciguerra, both birdwatchers, were kidnapped during a research trip in Tawi-Tawi. On December 6, 2014, Lorenzo Vinciguerra was rescued after he escaped from his captors when the troops under the Joint Task Force Sulu attacked the Abu Sayyaf group about 5:20 a.m. However, one of the ASG shot and wounded the Swiss national as he was escaping.[177] As of that date, Dutch national Ewold Horn is still in captivity by the Abu Sayyaf.[178][179]


  • May 27 – At least 7 militants and 7 marines were killed when the government forces tried to rescue 6 hostages.[180]
  • November 15 – Abu Sayyaf gunmen raid the Malaysian resort in Pom Pom, off Semporna, killing one Taiwanese tourist and flee across the sea border to Sulu Archipelago with another Taiwanese hostage.[105][106] The hostage was later rescued by the Philippines security forces in Sulu Province.[110]


  • April 2 – Abu Sayyaf gunmen raid another Malaysian resort in Semporna and flee across the sea border to Sulu Archipelago with a Chinese and Filipino hostages.[111][112][113] The two hostages were later rescued on May 31 with a collaboration by the Malaysian and the Philippines security forces.[114][115]
  • April 25 – Abu Sayyaf gunmen abduct a retired German doctor and his girlfriend from their yacht near the island of Palawan. They are released on October 17. The group claims to have collected a 5,6 Mio $ ransom from the German government.[181]
  • May 6 – Five Abu Sayyaf gunmen raid a Malaysian fish farm in Baik Island near the shores of Silam and kidnap the fish farm manager.[116] The hostage was later taken to the Jolo island in the Sulu Archipelago.[117] He was later freed on July with the help of Malaysian negotiators.[118]
  • June 16 – Two Abu Sayyaf gunmen raid a Malaysian fish farm and kidnapped a Chinese fish farm manager and one Filipino in Kampung Air Sapang, Kunak, Sabah.[119][120] The Filipino hostage managed to escape while the fish farm manager has been taken away to Jolo.[121][122][123] The fish farm manager was later released on December 10.[124]
  • June 27 – Abdul Basit Usman, a bomb maker with links to Abu Sayyaf, reportedly is training others to carry out bombings in the Philippines.[182]
  • July 28 – Abu Sayyaf members ambush a civilian vehicle loaded with celebrators of Eid in Sulu, killing 21 people.[183]
  • August 20 – There are alleged reports that Abu Sayyaf members are training in Iraq under the Islamic State.[184] Within this time, Isnilon Totoni Hapilon's group pledged allegiance to Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi and Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant[185] followed by Radullan Sahiron. ISIS accepted their pledge.[citation needed]


  • February – Military intelligence said that members of Jemaah Islamiyah are training Abu Sayyaf members in Sulu.
  • May 15 – Four Abu Sayyaf members abducted two people in a resort in Sandakan, Malaysia and brought them to Parang, Sulu.[126][127]
  • May – Abu Sayyaf members abducted 2 Coast Guard personnel and a barangay captain in Aliguay Island, a tourist destination in Zamboanga del Norte near Dapitan City. The captain was found beheaded later in Sulu. The Coast Guard personnel later escaped when the group encountered a battalion of Marines and some members of the Scout Rangers, an encounter that left 15 ASG members dead.[186]
  • September 21 – Canadians Robert Hall, John Ridsdel, Norwegian Kjartan Sekkingstad and a Filipina woman named Maritess Flor were kidnapped by dozen armed men in a resort, Holiday Oceanview Resort along Island Garden City of Samal, Davao del Norte. Hostage videos have been released, however they still remain imprisoned by the militants[187]
  • November 9 – One of the Malaysian kidnapped victims been released after ransom been paid.[128]
  • November 17 – While another Malaysian hostage was beheaded after ransom demands was not met.[129][130]
  • Late December, ISIL officially puts Abu Sayyaf as their direct affiliate.


  • January 14 – A member of Abu Sayyaf who was believed to have been involved in the 2000 kidnappings over Sipadan was arrested by Philippine authorities.[188]
  • February 6 – Another Abu Sayyaf member who been alleged has link to the 2000 kidnappings over Sipadan and Davao Pearl Farm incidents was killed during a clash with Philippine police and military personnel who out to arrest him in Indanan, Sulu.[189]

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