Abu Sayyaf Terrorist Group

6 June 2016

The 11th of September will always be remembered in the history of the world. Not only because of the remarkable terrorist attack but because of the changes it has created in the world’s view of terrorism. Terrorism has long been related to bombing of public places or government buildings, kidnapping, and other acts of attacking innocent people. However, the notable 9/11 terrorist attack changed everything. It altered the meaning of terrorism in different contexts. The even also changed the world’s view of security.

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According to the US government, terrorism is “a means predominated, politically motivated violence perpetrated against noncombatant targets by sub national groups or clandestine agents” (About.com, 2008). Another accepted definition on terrorism is  c“the calculated use of violence or threats of violence to attain goals that are political, religious, or ideological in nature…through intimidation, coercion, or instilling fear” (Chomsky and Otero, 2003, p.301). In all the definition constructed, it only denotes that terrorism is an act of killing while gravely threatening the innocent people.

Around the world, there are various organized groups associated with carrying out terrorism. In the international community, the Al Qaeda is the well known terrorist that designed and executed the 9/11 terrorist attack. The Al Qaeda group was also declared as the notorious enemy of the world. However, aside from Al Qaeda, there are various organizations in different nations operating and employing acts that are causing strife to their government and to the people as well. The Abu Sayyaf Group (ASG) is one of the branded enemies of the international world (Leifer, 2001, p. 48). The Abu Sayyaf Group (ASG) is functioning in the Philippines and had been concluded to have link with the Al Qaeda terrorist group.

Origin and objective of the Islamic Separatist Groups

The geographic territory of the Philippines is composed mainly of three islands namely; Luzon, Visayas, and Mindanao (Brunner, 1999, p.283). The main seat of the government of the Republic of the Philippines is situated in Luzon, particularly in its capital city Manila (Brunner, 1999, p.283). Majority of the Filipino people are Christians. Most Christians occupied Luzon and Visayas while most Muslims occupied the southern part of the country, Mindanao.

The government of the Republic of the Philippines had been bothered by the Muslims group seeking for autonomy from the central government. The reason for autonomy was brought by the belief of the Muslims that the economic and humanitarian assistance afforded to them by the central government was not enough. In addition, they believed that the Muslims are given lesser priority in the political participation. For these reasons, Mindanao was never quieted from gun firings and cases of death because the government’s effort to pacify the place was not successful. War against the group and the government was prevalent in Mindanao until the 21st century. At present, Mindanao has been developed and more Christian people are living with Muslims.

The group that instigated the separation of the Mindanao from the central government was the Moro national Liberation Front (MNLF) which was established and headed by Nur Misuari in 1971 (Liss). The fundamental objective of the group was the establishment of a separate Moro country. Such country would exist with a democratic form of government which is free and intolerable of being exploited and oppressed by outside force or influence. Minor objective includes the preservation of the culture of the Islamic and the indigenous people.

The group was not as strong as expected because another group was formed out of MNLF. Due to internal misunderstanding, the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) deviated from the group of Misuari (Liss). The MILF was headed by Hashim Salamat, an Islamic scholar (Liss). The objective of the MILF was to stress Islamic ideology in their effort to self- determination. However, the two groups employed arms in pursuing their causes that eventually led to several internal wars in Mindanao.

The Creation of Abu Sayyaff (ASG)

In 1990, another group separated from the MNLF which was named as Abu Sayyaf Group (ASG) (Leifer, 2001, p.49). The ASG was founded by Abduragak Abubakar Janjalani with the aim of fighting the government is a more fundamentalist manner (Public Broadcasting Service, 2008). The group also demands that the seas of Sulu and Celebes be closed against foreign fishermen. In addition, the group objective is the inclusion of Islam in Philippine schools.

According to record, Janjalani was trained as a mujahedin and previously studied in Libya and in Saudi Arabia (Public Broadcasting Service, 2008). In addition, he had been fighting against Soviet forces during their occupation in Afghanistan (Public Broadcasting Service, 2008). Notably, the name Abu Sayyaf is an Arabic word which means “Bearer of Sword” (Leifer, 2001, p.49).

The group was able to survive through financial support from Mohammed Jamal Khalifa (Center on Foreign Relations, 2008). Khalifa is a businessman from Suadi Arabia and is the brother-in-law of Osama bin Laden. While the Abu Sayyaf was starting, the group was already recruiting Muslim members. Through Khalifa’s money, Islamic universities and charities were established (Center for Defense Information, 2008). The fundamental teachings were influenced by extremist’s doctrine.

One of the known foundation of Khalifa and the Abu Sayyaf group is the International Islamic Relief Organization which is based in Zamboanga (Center for Defense Information, 2008). The underground trainings, guns, basic necessities were all supplied by Khalifa. Eventually the group grew bigger, recruiting even children and women who believed in the Abu Sayyaf’s ideology. Some of its members were a graduate from Mazar-e Sharif, a training ground in Afghanistan. When the group has accumulated strength, they began executing their plots which includes the assassination of the visiting Pope and blowing up airliners containing 12 US civilians (Center for Defense Information, 2008).

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