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Terrorism Incident Management and Emergency Procedures

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According to the United States Department of Defense (DoD) (2008), terrorism is an act of unlawful violence that is done in order to promote fear, which intends to force and intimidate the government and the society to attain the objectives that may be political, ideological, or religious centered (cited in International Terrorism and Security Research, 2008). In a greater sense, terrorism is a strategic way of committing violent actions that would obtain publicity among the majority of the population and the government. It involves choosing victims that would serve as a symbol for something that is contrary to what they believe in. The act would only be deemed as effective through the reaction of the public and the government (International Terrorism and Security Research, 2008).

            Different terrorist organizations have emerged to carry on conflicts in different nations. As such, these organizations are secretive in nature which makes it hard for the functional groups of different governments to track down the opponents and have a clear organization that would establish the needed defense (Terrorism and Security Research, 2008). One of the terrorist organizations that have been feared by majority of the populace in its country is the Abu Sayyaf Group.

Stated Goals, Ties with Other Terrorist Organization, and Ideological and Regional Support

Abu Sayaff Group (ASG) is an Islamist separatist organization that was established in Mindanao in the southern part of the Philippines. The word Abu Sayaff is an Arabic term which means “bearer of the sword” or “father of the swordsman” (“Abu Sayaff Group,” 2008). The organization seeks to establish an Islamic state that is Iranian in style for the Muslim minority in the Mindanao region. It was noted that ASG has been attempting to eliminate Christians in Basilan Island which is located in the southwest region of Mindanao ” (“Abu Sayaff Group,” 2008).

According to the White House, ASG has ties with other terrorist organizations like the Al-Qaeda network headed by Osama Bin Laden and the Jemaah Islamiyah which is an Indonesian based terrorist organization (Stanley, 2008). In addition to this, the Philippine government strongly believes that ASG is also related with Ramzi Yousef, who, in 1993, led the World Trade Center bombing (“Abu Sayaff Group,” 2008).

Historical Background

            The terrorist group was founded during the latter part of 1980’s in the province of Basilan, which until now is believed to be the base of the operations carried out by the group. Basilan, along with some areas including Sulu, Tawi-Tawi, and Zamboanga peninsula are some of the areas where ASG is actively involved. The cities of Manila and Cotabato have also been the target of the said organization (“Abu Sayaff Group,” 2008)

The organization was spearheaded by Abdurajak Janjalani, an Islam preacher and a Filipino Muslim. He served as a “mujahideen” in Afghanistan where he participated in the Jihad to counter the Soviet Union. After he returned from Afghanistan in 1986, Janjalani was well known among his people and was invited by Afghan professor Abdul Rasul Abu Sayaff to join his newly established guerrilla unit. Because of Janjalani’s fundamentalist belief which is centered on the “pure” form of Islam, he, along with the other people who believe in the same ideologies, established a movement that later on pursued the dreams they had for their religion. Abu Sayaff was named after the Afghan professor Abdul Rasul Abu Sayaff (“Abu Sayaff Group,” 2008).

Janjalani later on led a movement that pursues the Islam in pure form. His teachings became groundwork for other preachers which include Ustadz Wahab Akbar, who was said to be the man whom Janjalani was able to shape his legacy. Back then, Akbar was an active member of another Muslim separatist movement known as the Moro National Liberation Front or MNLF. Abu Sayaff and MNLF shared a common goal of separatism, only that the MNLF seeks to have a Moro Republic in the Mindanao during early 1970’s (“Abu Sayaff Group,” 2008).

During the earlier part of its establishment, ASG worked as a division of the MNLF. However, Janjalani saw the efforts of MNLF as appeasing and moderate. In early 1990’s, Janjalani and his comrades decided to work on their own and led a battle against the authorities of the Philippines in a fundamentalist way of thinking. The independent organization was officially named Al Harakatul al Islamiya (Islamic movement). Still, for the society, the group remained as the Abu Sayaff group (“Abu Sayaff Group (ASG),” 2008).

Funding Sources

 Earlier efforts of the group were financed by a businessman named Mohammad Jamal Khalifa who, at that time, was residing in the Philippines. According to reports, Khalifa was the brother-in-law of Osama Bin Laden. The money that Khalifa supplied to bring the group into existence was laundered from the Philippine based Islamic charity that he operated.

During the latter parts of its operations, ASG financed itself through kidnap for ransom and extortion. It was also reported that there are donors from Middle Eastern Islamic extremist. ASG was also reported that it accepts support from other terrorist organizations in the region (“Abu Sayaff Group (ASG),” 2008). The weekly standard (2006) also wrote that an Iraqi Intelligence Service gave out financial support to terrorist movements which include the Abu Sayaff Group. It was also stated that Iraqi ambassador, Hisham Hussein had a previous direct involvement with Abu Sayaff. This was proven after intensive surveillance eventually leading to his expulsion from the Iraqi Embassy office in Manila (Hayes, 2006).

Past Terrorist Activities, Patterns, Successes, Failures, and Trends

Subsequent attacks of ASG presented the advocacy of violence among innocent citizens in order to attain the goal of establishing the so called Iranian-Islamist state. It was in 1991 that the group mobilized its first alarming attack. A grenade attack was put forward by the group among Christian missionaries and congregation of the Catholics that took the life of two American evangelists (Stanley, 2008).

Abduction of nuns, priests, as well as teachers was also done by the group. Likewise, innocent Chinese nationals were kidnapped by the organization. By 1992, ASG bombed the cities of Zamboanga and Davao. In 1993, the manipulation of media was done by the group when they kidnapped a boy aged five and his grandfather. In a press conference, ASG representatives announced to free the captives upon compromising with the removal of symbols that represent Christianity in the Muslim communities. The kidnapping of Bernardo Blanco also took place that same year (“Abu Sayaff Group,” 2008).

American language scholar, Charles Walton was kidnapped in 1994 when he was doing a research in Basilan. That same year, ASG target bombed a plane owned by Philippine Airlines in midair. One passenger was killed due to the event. The following year, Abu Sayaff claimed their involvement in the plan of assassinating Pope John Paul II during the time of his visitation in Manila. During the latter part of that year as well, the movement went on a killing spree in the town of Ipil, leaving 54 people lifeless. Moreover, In 1997, 60 people were reportedly injured after the organization blasted a department store situated in Zamboanga (“Abu Sayaff Group,” 2008).

            In December 1998, Abu Sayaff witnessed its first failure when their founder, Abubakar Janjalani was killed by the Philippine Army. He was then replaced by his younger brother Khadaffy Janjalani who led the group until 2006. The death of the founding father of the organization stimulated anger among its member. Because of this, ASG became increasingly brutal in carrying out there attacks (“Abu Sayaff Group,” 2008).

During, the 1990’s, it appears that Abu Sayaff’s activities are confined in a domesticated scope and permeated only the local news. It never even attracted media attention elsewhere. However, on April 23, 2000, the group changed the course of their action. Spearheaded by a senior leader named Ghalib Andang also known as Commander Robot, ASG abducted 21 hostages in a Malaysian diving resort located in Sipadan Island. It was identified that there were foreign national hostages from South Africa, Lebanon, Germany, Finland, and France. The publicity of the hostage taking was made possible by different media organizations that were allowed to cover the story and served as the medium for the ASG to bring their message to the public. Alongside the media, Jesus Miracle Crusaders group were also allowed to enter the base, However, ASG later on took the religious group into captivity (Liss, 2007).

Through this incident, the activities of Abu Sayaff became an international agenda. From then on, Abu Sayaff was contemplated as a terrorist group that has a global reach and operated not only for the goal of the Iranian-Islam independent state but also to create a commission that would investigate the abuses that were taken against the  Filipino Muslims in Sabah, Malaysia. The Sipadan hostages were released after the group generated large amount of ransoms that were estimated to have cost around $15 million to $25 million. The substantial amount received by the group was used for purchasing equipment as well as for the recruitment of new members (Liss, 2007).

Another attack was made by the movement in May 27, 2001. The incident took place in a Philippine resort known as Dos Palmas situated in Palawan Island. ASG kidnapped 20 people which included three Americans. ASG demanded ransom in exchange for the freedom of the hostages. Several days later, the group beheaded one of its foreign captives and held the two other foreign nationals a hostage in Basilan Island (Stanley, 2008).  President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo headed the negotiations and ransoms in order to free the remaining hostages. Yet, the ransom that was paid in exchange for the freedom of the hostages did not reach the Abu Sayaff group. The failure in the ransom negotiation led the AFP to attack the base of ASG in June of 2002. However, the clash between the groups killed two of the captives, one of whom was identified as an American and the other was a Filipina while the other American captive was freed (Liss, 2007).

The year after the kidnapping incident in Dos Palmas, ASG continued their abduction activities. In August 2002, the group abducted six Filipino members of the religious organization, Jehova’s witnesses. Two of the members were beheaded. It was also documented that the group beheaded some soldiers during the course of their battle with the Philippine forces (Liss, 2007).

Despite the efforts of the government to counter the terrorism attacks done by Abu Sayaff, the organization continued their ill doings and concentrated more on bomb attacks. In February 14, 2004 one of the members of Abu Sayaff planted 3.6 kilograms of TNT in the ship Superferry 14 which was bound to travel in Bacolod and Davao. The incident took the lives of 132 people. The series of bomb attacks that were done by the group deliberately threatened the citizens in the country (“Abu Sayaff Group,” 2008).

While the members of Abu Sayaff engaged in various terrorist attacks, Philippine forces continuously held a fight to counter their terrorism. With the military intervention of USA and Australia, some of the Philippines’ efforts to combat ASG succeeded. It was documented that the terrorist group’s major powers weakened during 2006 and 2007 after an all-out war against them was implemented. In September 2006, Khadaffy Janjalani died in a shoot-out between the ASG and Philippine troops in Jolo Islands. Meanwhile, senior leader Abu Sulaiman who was said to be the successor of Janjalani was killed in a US-backed Philippine operation (Stanley, 2008).

Subsequent operations of the Philippine military forces resulted in the arrest of many members of the ASG. Likewise, the interception of bomb attacks were made by the forces in order to counter the activities of ASG. However, the war of Philippine government against Abu Sayaff has cost the lives of more than 300 members of the military. In addition to this, the eradication of the whole group was difficult because the central base of the organization, which is made up of various camps that are situated deep in the forest of the Mojahid Mountain in Basilan, is inaccessible (“Abu Sayaff Group (ASG),” 2008).

Methods of Attack, Selection of Victims, and Weapons Used

Based from the past activities of the ASG, the organization’s method of advancement involves bombings, assassinations, and kidnapping of locals, foreign tourist, and members of religious groups (“Abu Sayaff Group,” 2008). Aside from hand grenades and TNT’s, it was found out that the group keeps weapons that display strong firepower. In an operation done in 1994 by the Philippine forces in Patikul, Sulu, various weapons were seized from the members of ASG. The weapons include: “grenade launchers, 90 mm light anti-tank weapons, six land mimes, 75 sacks of ammonium sulfate, M-16s, M-145s as well as 100 meters of electric cord” (“Abu Sayaff Weapons Capabilities,” 1994, p. 1).

Meanwhile, the target victims of Abu Sayaff rebels are mostly civilian Filipinos. Yet, the threats are also high among foreign tourists because of the strong ties of the Philippine forces with the US. Likewise, the selection of the victims also follows the trend of other terrorist groups wherein they target non-combatant people so as to carry out their goals (Stanley, 2008). As such, foreign nationals are at risk because they would serve as bait for the government to pay higher ransoms that the group could use for purchasing their weapons and recruitment.


            Many of the members of Abu Sayaff were directly recruited from high schools and colleges. It was also stated that many of its followers have undergone training in Afghanistan, and 20 of them are in the graduating class of the camp Mazar-e Sharif in 2001. Moreover, several of its members were notable marksmen that could shoot targets from long ranges and varied weather conditions (Clark, 2001).

            In 2002, the estimated members of the organization reached around 1,200 members. However, today, the actual number of the organization does vary because of the continuous efforts of the government to counter terrorism. In 2007 alone, 127 members of the group were killed and 38 of its members were captured. Yet, because of the ties that the organization had with other regional organizations such as Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) and Jemaah Islamiyah, it is believed that there is a possibility that the organizations number may be growing (Stanley, 2008).


            Although Abu Sayaff group was seen as a faction of the MILF during its earlier operations, the changes in the course of action that the group has put forward became relatively well-known as a terrorist action. In a larger scale, the profile of its leaders and members greatly shows that the organization is more powerful compared to its regional counterparts. Like any other terrorist group, the capabilities of Abu Sayaff should not be disregarded. Moreover, although there is a continuous effort from the government to counter their terrorist acts, the activities that the group has done over the past years as well as their connections with other international organizations are a testament of possible repercussions in an internal or external scope. Thus, strong preventive measures should be taken into consideration as a way of combating possible future threats.


Abu Sayaff Group (ASG). (2008). Discover the Network. Retrieved September 10, 2008           from http://www.discoverthenetworks.org/groupProfile.asp?grpid=6435.

Abu Sayyaff weapons capabilities, foreign supporters listed. (1994, July 31). Philippine

Daily Inquirer, p. 1, 12.

Clark, E. (2002, March). In the spotlight: Abu Sayaff. Center for Defense Information.   Retrieved September 10, 2008 from http://www.cdi.org/terrorism/sayyaf.cfm.

Hayes, S. (2006, March 27). Saddam’s Philippines terror connection and other revelations          from the Iraqi regime files. The Weekly Standard, n.p., 11

International Terrorism and Security Research. (2008). What is Terrorism? Retrieved                  September 10, 2008 from http://www.terrorism-research.com/.

Liss, C. (2007, November 29). Abu Sayaff and US and Australian military intervention in the   Southern Philippines. Global Collaborative: Nautilus Institute. Retrieved September       10, 2008 from http://www.globalcollab.org/Nautilus/australia/apsnet/policy-         forum/2007/abu-sayyaf-and-us-and-australian-military-intervention-in-the-southern-           philippines/

Stanley, M. (2008, June 25). Abu Sayyaf Group (Philippines, Islamist separatists). Council         on Foreign Relations. Retrieved September 10, 2008 from        http://www.cfr.org/publication/9235/.

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