Background and history
In the early 1970s, the Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF) was the main Muslim rebel group fighting in Basilan and Mindanao. Abdurajik Abubakar Janjalani, the older brother of Khadaffy Janjalani, had been a teacher from Basilan, who studied Islamic theology and Arabic in Libya, Syria and Saudi Arabia during the 1980s. Abdurajik went to Afghanistan to fight against the Soviet Union and the Afghan government during the Soviet–Afghan War. During that period, he is alleged to have met Osama Bin Laden and been given $6 million to establish a more Islamic group drawn from the MNLF. The Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (ARMM) was established in 1989 in part in response. Both Abdurajik Abubakar and Khadaffy were natives of Isabela City, one of the poorest cities of the Philippines. Located on the northwestern part of Basilan, Isabela is the capital of the province. Isabela City is administered under the Zamboanga Peninsula political region north of Basilan, while the rest of the island province of Basilan is since 1996 governed as part of ARMM to the east.
Abdurajik Abubakar Janjalani leadership (1989–1998)
In the early 1990s, MNLF moderated into an established political government, the ARMM. It was established in 1989, fully institutionalized by 1996, and became the ruling government in southern Mindanao. When Abdurajik returned to Basilan island in 1990, he gathered radical members of the old MNLF who wanted to resume armed struggle and in 1991 established the Abu Sayyaf. Janjalani was fundedby 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". Khalifa married a local woman, Alice "Jameelah" Yabo.
By 1995, Abu Sayyaf was active in large-scale bombings and attacks. The first attack was the assault on the town of Ipil in Mindanao in April 1995. This year marked the escape of 20-year-old Khadaffy Janjalani from Camp Crame in Manila along with another member named Jovenal Bruno. On 18 December 1998, Abdurajik was killed in a gun battle with the Philippine National Police on Basilan Island. He is thought to have been about 39.
The death of Aburajik marked a turning point in Abu Sayyaf operations. The group shifted to kidnappings, murders and robberies, under younger brother Khadaffy. Basilan, Jolo and Sulu experienced some of the fiercest fights between government troops and Abu Sayyaf through the early 1990s. Abu Sayyaf primarily operates in the southern Philippines with members traveling to Manila and other provinces. It was reported that Abu Sayyaf began expanding into neighboring Malaysia and Indonesia by the early 1990s. Abu Sayyaf is one of the smallest, but strongest of the Philippine Islamist separatist groups. Some Abu Sayyaf members studied or worked in Saudi Arabia and developed ties to mujahadeen, while fighting and training in the war against the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan. Abu Sayyaf proclaimed themselves to be mujahideen and freedom fighters.
Khadaffy Janjalani leadership (1999–2007)
Until his death in a gun battle on 4 September 2006, Khaddafy Janjalani was considered the nominal leader of the group by the Armed Forces of the Philippines. Then 23-year-old Khadaffy took leadership of one of the Abu Sayyaf's factions in an internecine struggle. He then worked to consolidate his leadership, causing the group to appear inactive for a period. After his leadership was secured, Abu Sayyaf began a new strategy, taking hostages. The group's motive for kidnapping became more financial than religious during this period, according to locals. The hostage money probably provides the group's financing.
Photograph of Jainal Antel Sali Jr.
in 2006. Sali was later killed during a heavy gunfight with the Philippine authorities in 2007.
The group expanded its operations to Malaysia in 2000, when it abducted foreigners from two resorts. This action was condemned by most Islamic leaders. It was responsible for the kidnapping and murder of more than 30 foreigners and Christian clerics and workers, including Martin and Gracia Burnham. A commander named Abu Sabaya was killed in 2002, while trying to evade local forces. Galib Andang, one of the group's leaders, was captured in Sulu in December 2003. An explosion at a military base in Jolo, on 18 February 2006 was blamed on the group by Brig. General Alexander Aleo. Khadaffy was indicted in the United States District Court for the District of Columbia for his alleged involvement in terrorist attacks, including hostage-taking and murder, against United States nationals and other foreign nationals. Consequently, on 24 February 2006, Khadaffy 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, Isnilon Totoni Hapilon and Jainal Antel Sali Jr.
On 13 December 2006, it was reported that Abu Sayyaf members may have been planning attacks during the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) summit in the Philippines. The group was reported to have trained alongside Jemaah Islamiyah militants. The plot was reported to have involved detonating a car bomb in Cebu City where the summit was to take place. On 27 December, the Philippine military reported that Khaddafi's remains had been recovered near Patikul, in Jolo and that DNA tests had been ordered to confirm the discovery. He was allegedly shot in the neck in an encounter with government troops in September on Luba Hills, Patikul town in Sulu.
In a video published in the summer of 2014, senior Abu Sayyaf leader Isnilon Hapilon and other masked men swore their allegiance or "bay'ah" to Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, the "Islamic State" (ISIL) 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." For many years prior to this, Islamic State's competitor, al-Qaeda, had the support of Abu Sayyaf "through various connections". Observers were skeptical about whether the pledge would lead to Abu Sayyaf becoming an ISIS outpost in Southeast Asia, or was simply a way for the group to take advantage of the newer group's international publicity.