Image of Isnilon Hapilon used in US government posters.
|Birth name||Isnilon Totoni Hapilon|
|Other name(s)||Abu Abdullah al-Filipini|
March 18, 1966 |
or March 10, 1968 
Brgy. Bulanza, Lantawan, Basilan, Philippines
or Maluso, Basilan, Philippines
|Allegiance|| Abu Sayyaf
Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (since 2013 or 2014)
Isnilon Totoni Hapilon (born March 18, 1966 or March 10, 1968), also known as Abu Abdullah al-Filipini ("Abu Abdullah the Filipino"), is a Filipino Islamist militant who is linked to ISIS. He was formerly leader of Abu Sayyaf Group before its battalions pledged their allegiance to Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi. An April 2016 issue of ISIS' weekly newsletter Al Naba said that Hapilon had been appointed as "emir of all Islamic State forces in the Philippines".
According to the Federal Bureau of Investigation and the United States Department of State Rewards for Justice Program, Isnilon Totoni Hapilon was born on March 18, 1966 in Lantawan, Basilan province, Philippines. However, his school transcripts indicate his birth date as March 10, 1968 and his birthplace as Maluso, Basilan. His listed parent/guardian is Haridja Hapilon, a housekeeper. According to the Philippine Daily Inquirer, he has five siblings, and his father was a village imam named Hapilon Totoni.
Hapilon started elementary school in 1978, at the age of 10 or 12, enrolling at Maluso Central Elementary School. He had a perfect attendance from the first to the fifth grade, but had 28 days of absence and six days of tardiness in his sixth grade claiming that he had to "run errands"; he finished in 1984 with an average grade of 78%. He then enrolled at Basilan National High School, but his transcript ends with his first year even though he was eligible to proceed to second year.
The FBI Most Wanted Terrorists list, and some newspapers including the Philippine Daily Inquirer, The Straits Times, and The Philippine Star, reported that Hapilon earned an engineering degree from the University of the Philippines. On May 31, 2017, the University of the Philippines issued a statement refuting the earlier reports, declaring that they have no record of a former student or alumnus named Isnilon Hapilon.
The US government describes him as "skinny; may have chin hair and slight mustache" and his personality as "likable by peers; proud and confident in his abilities." He is a slim man with his height is estimated to be approximately 5 ft 5 in (1.65 m) to 5 ft 7 in (1.70 m) and his weight is around 120 lb (54 kg).
According to the FBI, he goes by aliases including Abu Musab, Sol, Abu Tuan, Esnilon, and Salahuddin. The Rewards for Justice Program lists further aliases including Abubakar Hapilon, Amah Hi Omar, Abu Omar, Abubakar, and Bakkal. He speaks Tausug, Tagalog, Yakan, and Arabic, as well as English. He may have traveled to Saudi Arabia and Malaysia in the past.
Moro National Liberation Front
Hapilon joined the Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF) in 1985 and traveled between Sulu and Basilan. While he was with the rebel group, he took up Arabic and madrasa education again and became the spokesperson of Commander Barahama Sali in 1992. A strong military offensive in 1994 and the death of Commander Sali forced them to flee to Sampinit Complex in Sumisip, where he met Abdurajak Abubakar Janjalani.
Disaffected with the MNLF while in hiding in Sampinit, Hapilon joined the Abu Sayyaf group led by Abdurajak Abubakar Janjalani, who also became his religious mentor. He eventually rose through the ranks of Abu Sayyaf, becoming one of the group's leaders.[note 1]
In June 2002, Hapilon and four other Abu Sayyaf leaders—Khadaffy Janjalani, Hamsiraji Marusi Sali, Aldam Tilao, and Jainal Antel Sali, Jr.—were indicted in absentia by the United States government for their role in the 2000 Dos Palmas kidnappings of seventeen Filipinos and three Americans, and the eventual beheading of one of the Americans, Guillermo Sobero. The August 2000 kidnapping of Jeffrey Schilling, and deaths of two hostages: American missionary Martin Burnham and Filipino nurse Ediborah Yap, were also cited in the indictment. Hapilon is the only one of the five indicted who is still alive. On February 24, 2006, Hapilon was added to the FBI's Most Wanted Terrorists list, along with Janjalani and Jainal Sali, Jr. The Rewards For Justice Program of the US State Department is offering up to US$5 million (approx. 254 million Philippine pesos as of July 2017) for information leading to his capture.
Hapilon was wounded in April 2013, in a military offensive that killed eight other Islamist militants in Tipo-Tipo, Basilan. Hapilon sustained a "slight wound" on the head during the raid, but his followers managed to drag him off safely before the soldiers could seize control of their base.
There were US intelligence reports claiming that he may have suffered a stroke at some point.
Islamic State in the Philippines
On April 9, 2016, Hapilon and Basilan-based commander Furuji Indama led 100 to 150 Abu Sayyaf fighters on an attack against government forces in Tipo-Tipo, Basilan. At least eighteen soldiers were killed and more than fifty other soldiers were wounded in the ten-hour shootout. Hapilon's son, Ubaida, was among the five Abu Sayyaf fighters killed in the encounter. The battle of Tipo-Tipo is currently ongoing with sporadic firefights. Government forces have been deployed to capture or kill Hapilon.
A June 21, 2016 video by ISIS entitled "The Solid Structure" recognized Hapilon as "the mujahid" authorized to lead the jihadists of the Islamic State in the Philippines, and designated him as emir. The video also called on Southeast Asian Islamist militants to travel to the Philippines and engage in jihad.
As of January 2017, ISIL acknowledged him as their member. And he is known to be in Butig, Lanao del Sur for rectifying Maute Group and joins Abu Sayyaf to establish the Islamic State in the Philippines. He was later promoted to Emir of the "Philippine Province".
In May 2017, during a joint operation of the Armed Forces of the Philippines and the Philippine National Police to capture Hapilon, militants of the Maute group launched an attack in Marawi. As of this time, Isnilon is in Marawi, alongside his supporters
Notes and references
- Nur Misuari, leader of the MNLF, signed a peace agreement with the Philippine government in 1996. Abdurajik Abubakar Janjalani, a former MNLF fighter, recruited other disappointed radical MNLF members to form the Abu Sayyaf, which aims to establish an independent Islamic state instead of an autonomous region.
- Abu Sayyaf used to be affiliated with al-Qaeda: Abu Sayyaf founder Abdurajak Abubakar Janjalani met Osama bin Laden, the founder of al-Qaeda, during the Soviet–Afghan War (1979 –1989). Abu Sayyaf was then funded by al-Qaeda through Mohammad Jamal Khalifa, a brother-in-law to bin Laden.
ISIS, another militant group, was affiliated with al-Qaeda from October 2004 to February 2014, when al-Qaeda publicly disavowed any relations with ISIS after an eight-month power struggle. Other armed Islamist groups previously affiliated with al-Qaeda, including the Abu Sayyaf, eventually pledged allegiance to ISIS. This resulted in ISIS becoming more powerful than al-Qaeda.
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