Background and history
In the early 1970s, the Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF) was the main Muslim rebel groups fighting in Basilan and Mindanao in the southern Philippines. 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. 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 MNLF in the southern Philippines, made up of members of the extant MNLF. By then, as a political solution in the southern Philippines, the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao was 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)
MNLF had moderated into an established political government, the ARMM. It was established in 1989, fully institutionalised 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 MNLF who wanted to resume armed struggle for an independent Islamic state and in 1991 established the Abu Sayyaf. 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". Khalifa had married a local woman, Alice "Jameelah" Yabo.
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 18 December 1998, Abdurajik Abubakar Janjalani was killed in a gun battle with the Philippine National Police on Basilan Island. He is thought to have been about age 39 at the time of his death. 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 travelling 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. 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)
Until his death in a gunbattle on 4 September 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. 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.
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 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. A commander named Abu Sabaya was killed in 2002 while trying to evade forces. Galib Andang, one of the leaders of the group, was captured in Sulu in December 2003. An explosion at a military base in Jolo on 18 February 2006 was blamed on Abu Sayyaf by Brig. General Alexander Aleo, an Army officer. 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. Consequently, on 24 February 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.
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 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. On 27 December, 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–present)
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 sceptical 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.