Abu Sayyaf, the terrorist group that erupted in 1989, is a breakaway group from the Moro National Liberation Front. Their name really means “bearer of the sword,” which was under the leadership of Abdujarak Janjalani on its first recourse (Niksch, 2002). Primarily, the emerging groups in the Southeast Asia had a religious motivation concerning acts of terrorism. In its sense, more groups committed to their spiritual belief have negotiated unity of its members towards acts of terrorism in response to political and social alterations.
At first, ASG’s linkage was to a Muslim Fundamentalist movement called Al Islamic Tabligh established in the 1980’s. ASG ultimately calls its members in one goal, targeting southern Filipino Christians. This objective clearly manifests its connection with the spread of Islam using armed struggle (Chalk, 2002). ASG, known by many as the smallest Islamic separatist group at the Southern part of the Philippine area, have activities mainly focused on bombings, assassinations, kidnappings, and extortions.
These actions all lead to one result, conveying an independent Islamic state in Western Mindanao and the Sulu Archipelago. However, there has been an association of the group on criminal activities because of rampant collection of ransom money. According to Gracia Burnham, “more than the Islamic religion itself, the group’s motivation for terrorism acts was money” (Ressa, 2003, p. 111). Even though the death of the former Janjalani leader had transpired in 1998, the connections of the group with global Islamic extremism continued.
For instance is the continuing kidnap of many foreigners and other Filipinos in 2000 had the reasons of financial security and engaging for release of Ramzi Yousef, Sheikh Abdul Rahman and other Muslims convicted of terrorist acts in the United States. Other than the stated motivations of ASG is the concurring difference of ethnic terrorism from ideology, religion, or economic stance. It seems that there is a growing identity of ethnic terrorism to religion, though this relationship may seem inconclusive.
However, based from groups like Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LITE), the Kurdish Workers Party, the Provisional Irish Republican Company and the Basque National Liberty (ETA); ethnic terrorism clings to a nationalistic ideology than the religious counterparts within national identity. According to Byman, ethnic terrorism needs violence for the ideologies to grow (Byman, 2002, p. 187). In a discourse, the use of violence remains a symbolic entity in most of the political terrorists and a theological stand for religious terrorists. The ideology goes in circles for ethnic terrorism.
This identity existing between the political and religious perspectives is maintained through violence. What violence creates is that the fear within ethnic interests, which in turn lets down those who moderate peace. In this sense, the political terrorists use violence to destabilize the government’s sociopolitical power. It makes an illusion that the authority of the government cannot work over terrorism. One example exemplified by ASG is the hostaging constantly emerging every quarter. Sipadan hostage, one of the well-known criminal undertakings of ASG, dictated the government of ransom on 23 April 2000, which the government has served.
Hence, the contribution made by the local authorities in this siege portrayed that it could play a much bigger part than the other government projects (Ressa, p. 116). Historical Background The original name of Abu Sayyaf Group (ASG), a breakaway group from the Moro National Liberation Front is Mujahideen Commando Freedom Fighters. ASG, formed in the 1990’s, comprises of MNLF fighters and Filipino citizens who fought in Afghanistan. Its leader, Abdujarak Janjalani, is a son of an angler on Basilan island and has linkage to the Muslim Fundamentalis Movement called Al Islamic Tabligh in the 1980’s.
Financially, the group had aids coming from Saudi Arabia and Pakistan, which also comprised of funds for sending young Muslim men to schools in the Middle East. Because of this recognized funding, Janjalani studied in Libya and Saudi Arabia, where he instituted rational knowledge and came back to the Philippines forming Abu Sayyaf Group. He recruited its members from the MNLF and Filipino Muslims that fought with the Afghan Mujaheddin rebels against the Soviet Union (Philippine Daily Inquirer, 1994, p. 1).
In 1995, the ASG operations grew strong at around 600 members, which considered activities like bombing, kidnapping, and executions in Mindanao, particularly on Filipino Christians in Basilan. However, due to the settlement between the Philippine government and the MNLF in 1996, its operations declined. The resurrection of the group happened in 1998, when the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) killed its leader Abdujarak Janjalani giving its leadership to Khadaffy Janjalani, brother of Abdujarak and Ghalib Andang.
Since then, the group had formed geographical plans of kidnapping foreigners in order to get larger ransoms. One incident, led by Andang was in Sabah, Malaysia, where they kidnapped 21 foreigners consisting of Germans, Frenchmen, Finns, Malaysian, and South Africans. Subsequently, the group kidnapped three French journalists in July 2000. The release of these hostages had followed a year, where reportedly the European government had given an estimate of $10 to $25 million funneled through Libyan government (Fisk, 2000; Abby, 2001, p. 7).
The group enhanced their military strength, now amounting to 1,000 with new systems of weaponry, communications, and faster transport equipments using the ransom held from these activities. In addition, Khadaffy Janjalani, used the acquired speedboats on the May 27, 2000 kidnap in Palawan, where they hostage 20 people including three Americans. One of the three foreigners was beheaded Guillermo Sobero of California in June 2001 leaving Martin and Gracia Burnham in January 2002. The release of the kidnapped individuals was mostly followed by paying a ransom of $1 million each.
ASG had kidnapped several Filipinos in Basilan and Mindanao from 2000 to 2001. Moreover, the ex-hostages had said that the Burnhams’ ransom was $2 million each (Romero, 2001). ASG Command The concept of leadership within the ASG is similar to the solar system: the sun being the center of the universe, which is the leader of the group and its members as the planets surrounding him. Hence, leaders of terrorist groups act with the centrifugal force connecting all its members towards one goal.
We may say that being in the center, the order of operations mostly comes from the leader but there in terrorist groups, leaders also take part in the activities held by the group. Moreover, the leadership in one terrorist group is essential to their unity because it is complex and manifests the entire structure of the organization. ASG’s first leader, Abdujarak had his influences from the radicalization on his Muslim schools. In addition, Abdujarak had played a role as a former soldier in the Afghan war as a member of Mujahideen group under Abdul Rasul Abu Sayyaf (Rabasa, 2003, p.
53). Significantly, the charisma of Abdujarak had played as the cohesive material within the group. His educational radicalization from Muslim environments had inspired many young Muslims to be a member of ASG. Thus, the role of Abdujarak to the sustenance and foundation of ASG is very large. Compared to Hizballah and SL, ASG smaller population made is capable of conducting smaller attacks destroying large amounts. The level of capability the ASG has is because many of its members originally came from the MILF (Moro Islamic Liberation Front) and MNLF (Moro National Liberation Front).
However, because of Abdujarak’s death in an encounter in Lamitan, Basilan, had somehow lessened the political and moral adhesion of the group as the ideological glue. Generally, Abdujarak’s death had demolished the cohesion, strategy, and tactics of the group. His death had separated ASG into five subgroups, giving the first group to his brother Khadaffy Janjalani, a trained Muslim fundamentalist in Libya and leads the group found in Basilan. His counterpart, Galib Andang or Commander Robot is leading the group in Jolo.
The large alterations within the leadership of ASG had made its supporters shun away from the supporting the separatist group because of its apparent uncertain future and increased inclination to making criminal acts that has little to with the real ideology promoted by ASG allies (Cragin & Daly, 2004, p. 79). Spiritual/Religious Support Before any rebellion made by the Abu Sayyaf group, Moros or Filipino Muslims had already revolted during the time of Spaniards from 17th century, the Americans in the early 20th century and the Philippine Government in 1946.
These rebels had their location in Sulu, which is an island chain in southwestern Mindanao. Significantly, insurgencies made by Muslims had always been backed up by their Islamic faith. In addition, the separatists of Muslim community always had their ideology of political complexities against the Philippine government, making the rebellion a religious act that will establish an Islamic contour. Because of Western colonization, many educated Muslims had begun creating individual Muslim identities in the country with barriers from linguistic, geographic, and cultural factors.
Hence, with the combination of Islamic principles, the ethno religious identities became the foundation for Islamic insurgencies. However, the United States had suppressed the revolution of Muslims in the Philippines; still, it did not eliminate the secessionist movement of 400 years at the Southern islands. Most of the Muslim populations only dominate 13 of the 67 provinces in the countries, comprised of Tawi-Tawi, Basilan, and the Sulu Archipelago. In relation to this discourse is the poverty experienced mostly in the Mindanao area having 15 of the poorest provinces in the Philippines and low life expectancy rate (Kurlantzick, 2001, p.
22). According to Li and Schaub, “the primary cause of transnational terrorism is underdevelopment and poverty, an argument that recently became popular among but was rarely formalized by policy makers and scholars” (Li & Shaub, 2004, p. 235). Hence, poverty becomes their reason for resulting to violence and transnational terrorist activities, seemingly operating as an economic and political desperation. Profile of Group Members Recruitment Primarily, the motivation of terrorist groups due to injustice has multiplied the recruitment pools in for the survivability of the group.
For most terrorist groups, recruitment is one process not be left out because it replenishes the losses after an armed struggle. Interestingly, Asian countries like the Philippines have used democracy in order to establish nongovernmental organizations as fronts for funding weapons and recruits. Mohammed Jamal Khalifa, brother-in-law of Osama bin Laden, had been doing such activities in the Philippines, establishing Islamic International Relief Organization (IIRO), which gives money to other organizations in Muslim countries. Yes, most of the charities really perform social work but most of the money collected is drawn upon terrorist acts.
The main goal of Abu Sayyaf is to perform an armed struggle in a national objective to make Islam the supreme religion. Its former leader Abdujarak had made connections with bin Laden and Khalifa in order to establish ASG. Osama, as the main centrifugal force in maintaining the cohesive ideology of terrorist groups is not always acting as the protagonist rather the subordinates in each country, which sustains the al Qaeda network. One significant act of ASG to recruit members is to give a new rifle and $1,000 in order to advance operations in Basilan (Young, 2001).
Obviously, money paid to these recruits has come from the ransoms of 2000 and 2001 kidnappings. As a tactful approach, the ASG had gone to places of severe poverty that will interest much of the citizens in joining the revolt in exchange of money. Other than financial constraints, Abu Sayyaf has used the people’s tired opinions over the corruption in the Philippine government. Because many of Mindanao provinces are linked to lose of government authority, terrorist organizations acquire much of these lands for their safe houses, communication facilities, arm depots, and training complexes. Training
Traces of training methods raised by the ASG have its origins in Afghanistan, where its leader Abdujarak had fought with the Mujahideen for the Soviet Union. The Jimaah Islamiyah, Al Qaeda and other jihadists somehow interconnected through training camps of the 1980’s. Since the formation of separatists in Mindanao, the replication of these training camps had transpired (International Crisis Group, 2004, p. 13). Upon establishing ASG, Ramzi Yousef has been the training facilitator of the ASG members. After the Soviet war in Afghanistan, Abdujarak had come back with Yousef encouraging young Muslims to find the true meaning of Islam (Ressa, p.
26). Again, in February 23, 1992, Osama’s brother-in-law advised leaders of ASG to establish an Urban Guerilla attacks in Zamboanga City, which produced the murder of five people and 40 others injured due to the grenade at Fort Pilar in August 28, 1992. Because of the ASG’s growing influence over the revolts in Mindanao, Al Qaeda made subsequent efforts in supplying mentors upon training their members, which are all Islamic radicals from Kuwait, Qatar, Bosnia, Yemen, and Oman. One arrested instructor in Mindanao, Al Bakre, in 2004 was the bomb mentor in MILF camp in Camp Omar in Datu Piang, Maguindanao.
Before he instructed ASG members, his teaching skills were given to students in MILF and Jimaah Islamiyah on manufacturing bombs, demolition, and explosives. In 2000, the AFP had conquered two of MILF’s camps: the Abubakar and Omar camps but was partially returned due to the peace talks between the Philippine Government and the MILF. Moreover, there are suspicions concerning JI’s training in Mindanao, which it will replace Afghan veterans caught in the Malaysia, Singapore, Thailand, and Indonesia terrorist arrests. Methods of Attacks
Weapons Last September 2001 was the confirmation of Al Qaeda’s connection with Abu Sayyaf. This support covers the leadership, training, and materials. It is natural for an international terrorist group to spread its organization in areas capable of withholding their army such as Middle East, Western Europe, North America, and South Asia. Since the establishment of Abu Sayyaf in the Philippines, Bin Laden has seen the ultimate potential of the Southeast Asia as training grounds and communication capital for other jihads.
Hence, he sent his brother-in-law, Mohammad Jamal Khalifa, to take of the financing facilities in Southeast Asia. The establishment of Islamic International Relief Organization had contributed 30% of its funds to actual charity events and 70% to finance of terrorist activities. Significantly, Bin Laden and his brother-in-law had funded the training needs of the ASG members in 1991 to Libya. Aside from bombing, kidnapping and extortion, ASG has used their location as a primary logistic place to contact other foreign allies.
For instance, was the APEC summit in 1996, where there is an exact plan to assassinate President Clinton with the use of logistics here in the Philippines and the World Trade bombing attack in 1993 having tactical relationship with the ASG. Moreover, the ASG has received donations from the Saudi and Pakistani groups wherein they also sought help from the negotiations upon the release of other foreign hostages of ASG. In 1991, the group has received $6 million aside from the weapon deliveries from Victor Blout, the Tajik Arms Dealer linked to both the Taliban and the Al Qaeda groups (McNeil, 2002, p. 101).
In addition is the collaborating efforts of Saif Al-Islam Al-Ghadaffi, son of the Libyan leader, in Maguindanao visiting the rebel leaders pronouncing a proposed economic development in the area. Other than the aforementioned supplies, ASG had no voluntary funds from individuals or companies. Summary The Abu Sayyaf group, formerly led by Abdujarak Janjalani, is a small Muslim separatist group formed from dissidents of MNLF and Afghan veterans. Primarily, the goal of the organization is to eliminate Filipino Christian community because of their affiliation from the Al Islamic Tabligh and spread the Islamic belief through armed struggle.
However, this goal has already divided into two, the political and religious distinctions. In the political distinction, the group wants southern Mindanao to have secession from the Philippine government because of lack of policies and budget on their location. Apparently, most of the poorest provinces in the country are found in Mindanao, which devastates the population. Hence, to address this, terrorism has resulted from the motivation of leaving poverty through struggle. The religious distinction simply sees that Islam is the only religion.
It manifests the undertakings of Christianity especially in the Philippines. At first, the ASG has culminated its ideas from radicalism imported in Libya and Saudi Arabia of Abdujarak but upon his death, the seeming declaration of criminal activities has occurred. Many individuals saw that money was the centrifugal force igniting terrorist activities in the country. As prominent evidences, ASG’s kidnaps comprised mostly foreigners entering the country or near Mindanao. One incident popular is the Palawan kidnap, where the group has hostaged 20 individuals including the three Americans.
Significantly, each person has ransom money of $1 million dollars. In this case, there is no exception, as Filipinos are included on the kidnapping issues. Weaponry and recruitment of Abu Sayyaf group clearly connects them to the Al Qaeda network. In 1991, Bin Laden’s interests of Southeast Asis expansion of transnational terrorist groups made him send his brother-in-law to establish a charitable institution as front for funding terrorist organizations. Training grounds were copied from training camps in Afghanistan where groups like the MNLF, Jimaah Islamiyah and MILF collaborated.
Generally, the manifestation of Abu Sayyaf group in terrorist acts is now divided unlike before where its leader Abdujarak had radical views on rebellion. Eventually, ASG became a criminal, extortionist group because of varying socio-economic factors. Conclusion Abu Sayyaf group never left the terrorist scene since its establishment. Even though there came a time of its declined activities, the group resurrected because it had proper funds and ideologies. Typically, the group did not varying customizations on Islamic faith.
At some point, there was a struggle of ideology concerning violence in political terrorism and religious terrorism. Many of the scholars have seen that the relationship between the two is unidentifiable. Between all these forces, most of the occurring factors have left Abu Sayyaf in silence. There have been issues of leadership within the group since its division in 1998. Similarly, the Al Qaeda network laid off from bombings and kidnaps due to disappearing and caught off leaders in each association.
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