Monday, January 31, 2011

Terror Threat: The Government Must Consult Not Insult

by Rommel C. Banlaoi

Source:  Newsbreak, 31 January 2011  at

Despite the serious travel advisories from 7 foreign embassies and warning from a local terrorism think-tank that terrorist threats in the Philippines, particularly in Metro Manila, were imminent, the Philippine government downplayed those advisories and questioned the credibility of a think-tank to make warning. The military establishment even denied the clear and present danger of terrorist threat in the city, arguing that the information from which the travel advisories was based was raw and not yet validated.

While the government and the military may have their own reasons for denying the threat, the Makati bus bombing last January 25 aptly demonstrated that the terrorist threat was not imagined but real.

Causing 5 deaths and injuring at least 13 others, the Makati bus bombing occurred because the threat group with the great intent and increasing capabilities to carry out the bombing found the ripe opportunity to carry out their plans.

One fundamental principle in countering terrorism, political violence or even criminal violence is the urgent need not only to understand the intent and capabilities of threat groups but also the necessity to deny them any single opportunity to mount an attack.

While our law enforcement authorities may already have a grasp of the intent and capabilities of all enemies of the state whether from the Abu Sayyaf Group (ASG), New People’s Army (NPA), lawless elements of the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF), rogue factions of the Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF) or organized crime groups like the shadowy Al Khobar Group (AKG), Pentagon Gang and the like, knowing exactly when they will attack is extremely difficult as perpetrators of violence operate discreetly, carefully and patiently.

More inclusive
But the Makati bus bombing could have been prevented had the government taken the travel advisories seriously rather than contradict them. Instead of insulting a think tank on its capability to provide terrorist threat assessment, the government could have been more consulting.

The government could have also done some proactive actions not only through intensified intelligence operations in areas identified as targets but also through enhanced collaboration with all security stakeholders that include the local government, the community, the private sector, and the academe.
Gone are the days when the police and the military were the country’s sole security providers

Securing the nation against threat groups is no longer the sole responsibility of the police and the military. Security is also an inherent responsibility of the local government, a corporate social responsibility of the private sector, and an integral aspect of responsible citizenship.
Gone are the days when the police and the military were the country’s sole security providers. Security has become so comprehensive beyond military sector and the security players have expanded beyond the police and military establishments.

To counter terrorist threats and other forms of violence whether political or criminal, the government has to champion the cause of security sector transformation not only in words but also in actions.
It means the government becoming more engaging with other security players from the private sector, local communities, and the academe. Rather than contract their voices, the government should listen and learn from them and make them truly part of an effective democratic governance, which has been proven as a strong antidote to terrorism and violence. Newsbreak, independent journalism from the Philippines

(The author is the Executive Director of the Philippine Institute for Peace, Violence and Terrorism Research (PIPVTR) and author of the book, Philippine Security in the Age of Terror published in 2010 in New York and London.)

Friday, January 28, 2011

ASG Links with Al Qaeda and JI

By Rommel C. Banlaoi

The Abu Sayyaf Group (ASG)  continues to wreak terrorist havocs because of its superb ability to establish strong linkages with foreign and local terrorist groups operating in the Philippines. These groups are the Al-Qaeda, JI, the MNLF, the MILF and the RSM. 

The ASG also has a creative and sophisticated means to solicit local support, which undoubtedly contribute to its resilience as a terrorist organization.  According to Philippine intelligence reports, the ASG also drew its support from the extremist element in Iran (Hezbollah), Pakistan (Jamaat-Islami and Hizbul-Mujahideen), Afghanistan (Hizb-Islami) Egypt (Al Gamaa-Al-Islamiya), Algeria (Islamic Liberation Front) and Libya (International Harakatul Al-Islamia).    But this blog will focus only on ASG links with Al-Qaeda, JI, the MNLF, the MILF and the RSM. 

ASG Linkages with Al-Qaeda.

The ASG reportedly established link with Al Qaeda through Mohammed Jamal Khalifa, the brother-in-law of Osama bin Laden.  Though several Islamic charities, Khalifa penetrated the Philippines to plant the seed of Al-Qaedaism in the Philippines.  The IIRO was Khalifa’s most important cover in the Philippines.  Officially registered at the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) on 20 October 1991, the IIRO  established a central office in Makati City and provincial branches in Mindanao. 

The IIRO was the main financial conduit of Al-Qaeda in the Philippines.  The IIRO constructed several mosques and Islamic schools in Mindanao, particularly in areas controlled by the ASG.  Khalifa even married a Filipina, Alice Yabo, to deepen his personal network in the country. Yabo’s brother, Abu Omar, had close ties with the MILF. This also cemented ties between Al-Qaeda and the MILF.

But it was Ramzi Yousef who was said to have deepened the ASG’s ties with Al Qaeda.  The ASG links with Al Qaeda relationship was also facilitated by the personal friendship between Janjalani and Bin Laden.  Both stayed in Peshawar, Pakistan in the 1980s.  Though Jason Burke argued that Bin Laden did not directly provide funding support for Janjalani during the mid-80s,[1]  what is clear is that the ASG played a supporting role in Yousef’s Bojinka Plot that was foiled in 1995.[2] The Bojinka plots aimed to bomb eleven U.S. jetliners and assassinate Pope John Paul II, who visited Manila in 1995.[3] 

The ASG  fully established closer link with the Al Qaeda in the 1990s.[4]     The ASG founder, Ustadz Abdurajak Janjalani,  befriended Bin Laden while in Peshawar, Pakistan.    Janjalani also became a very close friend of Ramzi Yousef.   It was Yousef who propagated the seeds of Al-Qaedaism in the Philippines. 

Based on various police reports,   Yousef formed a terrorist cell in the Philippines in 1994 using some transnational Islamic non-governmental organizations while planning the Bojinka Plot with Khalifa (See Figure 10).[5] Among the identified members of Yousef cell in the Philippines were the following:

·         Wali Khan Amin Shah.  A “Pakistani-Afghan” national reported to be a very close associate of Yousef.   As stated earlier, Wali Khan had extensive travels to the Philippines, Malaysia, Hong Kong and Thailand using 7 passports with different names but bearing the same picture of him.  He was believed to have been the over-all financial manager of Yousef cell.  While in the Philippines, he was reported to have used an automated teller machine card using the name of Carol Santiago, reported to be Wali Khan’s girlfriend.  He also reported to have participated in the plot against Pope John Paul II.
·         Abdul Hakim Ali Hasmid Murad.  A Pakistani national reported to have arrived in the Philippines between November 1990 to February 1991.  In December 1994, he came again to the Philippines to participate in the Bojinka plots aimed to assassinate the Pope.  He was trained in bomb making and flying commercial plane. He was arrested in 1995 having been convicted for the 1993 World Trade Center bombing.
·         Abu Omar.  A Filipino national who became the brother-in-law of Khalifa.  Omar reportedly used charitable organization as a front organization to channel money and to fund the terrorist activities of the local Muslim militants.
·         Munir Ibrahim.  Reported to be a wealthy Saudi Arabian from Jeddah who came to the Philippines to support terrorist activities in the country.
·         Salem Ali/Sheik Mohammad.  Claimed to be a plywood exporter who befriended Rose Mosquera, a bargirl in Quezon City, who opened a bank account for him at the Far East Bank at the SM Megamall.  Salem Ali was said to have also supported terrorist activities in the Philippines.
·         Mohammed Sadiq Odeh. He admitted to be a member of Al-Qaeda.  Reported to have participated in various. terrorist operations in the Philippines , particularly in Davao City, in the early 1990s and was convicted for his participation in the 1988 U.S. embassy bombings in Kenya.  He was suspected of masterminding the 1993 San Pedro Cathedral bombing. In  1995, Filipino law enforcement agency arrested him for illegal possession of explosive devices. [6]

ASG Linkages with JI.   ASG linkages with JI have already been excellently discussed by various authors.[7]    Although the organizational dynamics of JI and ASG underwent dramatic changes in the midst of a post-9/11national and regional security environment, latest developments indicate that JI-ASG linkage remains in tact and operational.  Intelligence sources reveal that the number of JI members in the Philippines collaborating with ASG was placed at around 30-50 as of May 2009.  These JI operatives continue to exploit local Muslim secessionist rebels in the Philippines by sharing their demolition skills.

The arrest of Fathur Rahman Al-Ghozi on 15 January 2002 unearthed the link between JI and ASG.  Also known as “Mike the Bomb-maker”, Al-Ghozi admitted that he participated in the 2000 Manila Rizal Day Bombing and shared to ASG members his bomb-making skills.  

The arrest of  Rohmat alias “Zaki” on 16 March 2005 also gave a more substantial information about the recent JI-ASG linkages.  Zaki, an Indonesian national, confessed to several crimes involving the ASG since 2000, including training members to make bombs in JI-run camps.[8]  Known as the “ASG the bomb trainer”, Zaki admitted that he trained ASG members in bomb making, particularly the use of mobile phones as detonating devices and the use of toothpaste as bomb paraphernalia.” [9] He also admitted to have coordinated the 2005 Valentine’s Day bombings, which resulted in the brutal death of 10 people and the serious wounding of at least 150 others. JI-ASG link was further confirmed by Mohammed Nassir bin Abbas who confessed to have led the Mantiqi Three based in Camp Hodeiba in the Southern Philippines to train both ASG and MILF fighters. 

Estimated number of JI members operating in the Philippines as of the end of 2010 was reported to be 25 together with at least 40 personalities described by the intelligence establishment as foreign military jihadists. Their frequent areas of operations in Mindanao are believed to be Camp Hodeiba, Mount Cararao; Mount Piagayongan, Butig, Lanao del Sur; Barangay Kamanga, Isulan, Sultan Kudarat; Barangay Kamanga, Esperanza, Sultan Kudarat; Mount Magaturing, Maguindanao; Sitio Katol, Barangay Damading, Salipada K. Pendatun, Maguindanao; Barangay Bagoinged, Pagalungan, Maguindanao; and Barangay Nangaan and Simone, both in Kabacan, Cotabato.    Two JI personalities (Dulmatin and Umar Patek) known suspects for the October 2002 bombings in Bali, Indonesia are reported to be hiding in Mindanao with key ASG leaders.

[This piece is taken from Rommel C. Banlaoi, Counter-Terrorism Measures in Southeast Asia:  How Effective Are They? (Manila: Yuchengco Center, 2009)].
[1] Jason Burke, Al-Qaeda: Casting a Shadow of Terror (London: I. B. Tarus, 2003), p.  101.
[2] See Rommel C. Banlaoi, Prototype 9/11:  The Bojinka Plot in the Philippines (Quezon City:  Philippine Institute for Peace, Violence and Terrorism Research, forthcoming 2010).
[3] For a brief account of Bojinka Plot, see Peter Lance, 1000 Years for Revenge:  International Terrorism and the FBI, The Untold Story (New York: Harper and Collins Book, 2003), pp. 216-217, 254-256 and 283-284.  Also see Lawrence Wright, The Looming Tower:  Al-Qaeda and the Road to 9/11 (New York:  Vintage Book, 2006).
[4]See Zachary Abuza, “Tentacles of Terror:  Al Qaeda’s Southeast Asian Linkages” (Paper presented in the conference “Transnational Violence and Seams of Lawlessness in the Asia Pacific”  Linkages to Global Terrorism” held at the Asia Pacific Center for Security Studies, Honolulu, Hawaii on 12-21 February 2002), p. 6.  Also published in Contemporary Southeast Asia, Volume 24, Number 2 (December 2002), pp. 427-466.
[5] Banlaoi, “Transnational Islam in the Philippines”, p. 188.
[6]Ibid.  Also see Ma. Concepcion B. Clamor, “Terrorism and Southeast Asia:  A Philippine Perspective” (Paper presented in the conference “Transnational Violence and Seams of Lawlessness in the Asia Pacific”  Linkages to Global Terrorism” held at the Asia Pacific Center for Security Studies, Honolulu, Hawaii on 12-21 February 2002).
[7]See Rohan Gunaratna, Inside Al-Qaeda: Global Network of Terror (New York: Columbia University Press, 2002);  Zachary Abuza, “Tentacles of Terror:  Al-Qaeda’s Southeast Asian Network”,  Contemporary Southeast Asia, Vol. 24, No. 3 (December 2002), pp. 427-465.; Maria Ressa, Seeds of Terror:  An Eyewitness Account of Al-Qaeda’s Newest Center of Operations in Southeast Asia (New York:  Free Press, 2003)  and Rommel C. Banlaoi, War on Terrorism in Southeast Asia (Manila: Rex Book Store International, 2004).  
[8]Alleged bombs expert for Jemaah Islamiyah regional network arrested in Philippine”, Channel News Asia at  <accessed on 12 April 2005>.
[9]Interview with General Marlu Quevedo, Chief of the Intelligence Service of the Armed Forces of the Philippines, held at Camp General Emilio Aguinaldo, Quezon City on 29 March 2005.

Thursday, January 27, 2011

ASG Ideology

By Rommel C. Banlaoi

The original ideology of the Abu Sayyaf Group (ASG)  was anchored on Abdurajak Janjalani’s religious and political thoughts.  ASG followers did not only recognize Janjalani as their spiritual and military leader but also their foremost ideological beacon.[1]  As an ideologue, Janjalani was well-informed by the historical, religious, economic, political and social conditions in which Muslims in the Philippines find themselves.        

When Janjalani formed the ASG, his original intention was to create a group of Muslim Mujahedeen committed to Jihad Fi-Sabil-lillah, a “struggle in the cause of Allah” or “fighting and dying for the cause of Islam”.  Before Janjalani died in December 1998, he delivered eight radical ideological discourses called Khutbah, which may be considered as primary sources of Janjalani’ radical Islamic thoughts.  These discourses explained Janjalani’s Quranic perspective of Jihad Fi-Sabil-lillah, which he lamented, was misinterpreted by many Muslims.  He even denounced the ulama (Muslim scholars) for their little knowledge of the Quran and lamented that most Muslims in the Philippines calling themselves as Moros were not really practicing the true meaning of Islam compared with their counterparts in West Asia.   These eight discourses also revealed Janjalani’s deep grasp of Wahhabi Islam, which considered other Muslims heretical.  The Islamic theology of Wahhabism greatly informed Janjalani’s radical ideology.

In his analysis of Philippine society, Janjalani was aware of the injustices committed against Muslim communities.  Thus, he purportedly founded the ASG to vigorously seek kaadilan or justice for Muslims through jihad.  For Janjalani, jihad is the highest form of struggle for justice or cause.  He classified jihad into two:  jihad al-akbar (greater Jihad) and jihad al-asgar (lesser jihad).  Janjalani failed to elaborate these two forms of jihad.  He only argued that they “are the same in Divine assessment but are merely differentiated in human terms and conditions.”[2]   He contended that the “surest guarantee of justice and prosperity for Muslims” is the establishment of a purely Islamic state that can only be achieved through jihad.  Janjalani even urged Muslims in the Philippines to pursue their jihad to the highest level in order to fulfill their paramount duty of martyrdom for the cause of Allah.

Abdurajak Janjalani’s appeal for martyrdom also means endorsement of suicide terrorism.  Though there has been no recorded incident of suicide terrorism in the country, Janjalani was aware of the value of suicide terrorism as a favored tactic of radical Muslims pursuing jihad.  In fact, the bombing of Superferry 14 on 28 February 2004 was originally planned by ASG as a suicide mission.

One of Janjalani’s Khutbahs revealed his deep resentment against Christian missionaries in Mindanao, particularly those severely maligning Islam.  Janjalani said that the aggressive preaching of Christian missionaries in Mindanao gravely insulted Islam and severely provoked Muslims to respond violently.  The bombing of M/V Doulos in August 1991 was ASG’s retaliation against Christian missionaries who used derogatory words against Islam and called Allah a false God. 

[This piece is taken from Rommel C. Banlaoi, Counter-Terrorism Measures in Southeast Asia:  How Effective Are They? (Manila: Yuchengco Center, 2009)].
[1] Nathan G. Quimpo, “Dealing with the MILF and Abu Sayyaf:  Who’s Afraid of an Islamic State?, Public Policy, Vol. III, No. 4 (October/December 1999), p. 50.
[2] Samuel K. Tan, “Beyond Freedom: The Juma’a Abu Sayyaf (Assessment of its Origins, Objectives, Ideology and Method of Struggle” in his Internationalization of the Bangsamoro Struggle (Quezon City:  University of the Philippines Center for Integrative and Development Studies, 2003), revised edition, p. 94.

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

The Origin of the Abu Sayyaf Group

By Rommel C. Banlaoi

Though it is widely known that Ustadz Abdurajak Janjalani founded the Abu Sayyaf Group (ASG), there is no uniform account its exact origin being a clandestine organization like the JI. Based on the various documents of the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) and the Department of National Defense (DND), the formation of the ASG could be traced from the disgruntled members of the Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF) over the dormant secessionist movement in the late 1970s.[1]  But the late Khadaffy Janjalani, ASG’s second Amir, claimed that the group was officially founded in 1993 with the name Al-Harakatul Al-Islamiyyah (AHAI).[2] 

Media reports said that the military formed the ASG in early 1990s to penetrate the ranks of Muslim radicals in the Southern Philippines.   The ASG was said to have acted as an agent provocateur of the AFP.[3]   Edwin Angles (a.k.a. Ibrahim Yakub), suspected to  be Janjalani’s co-founder of the ASG, was  disclosed as the deep cover agent of the military and the police intelligence units.[4]  Some sources revealed that the National Intelligence Coordinating Agency (NICA) facilitated the establishment of the ASG.[5] An MNLF leader in Basilan even confessed that the ASG enjoyed the support of the military assigned in the area.[6] The International Peace Mission that went to Basilan on 23-27 March 2002 found that there were “consistent credible reports that the military and the provincial government are coddling the Abu Sayyaf.”[7]  

But the AFP, the DND and NICA have denied all these allegations. ASG leaders even argued that group was a creation of the military.  Abu Abdu Said, then known as the ASG Secretary General, issued on 18 November 1994  an important document entitled “A Voice of Truth” to describe the origin of the ASG.  In this document, the ASG strongly denied that it was created by the military.  It argued that the ASG was a radical movement aiming to pursue the establishment of an Islamic State in the Southern Philippines.

The military establishment said that in 1990, Janjalani formed the Mujahideed Commando Freedom Fighters (MCFF) to wage jihad against the Philippine government.  The Philippine military regarded the MCFF as the forerunner of the ASG.   When the MCFF attracted some “hard core” followers in Basilan, Zulu, Tawi-Tawi and Zamboanga, it was later called as the ASG.   But according to Noor Muog, one of the key leaders of the ASG now working with the Philippine Institute for Peace, Violence and Terrorism Research (PIPVTR), an independent terrorism think tank in the Philippines, the MCFF was a misnomer.  The forerunner of the ASG was the Jamaa Tableegh, an Islamic propagation group established in Basilan in the early 1980s by Abdurajak Janjalani.  This group conducted seminars, symposia and small-group discussions to propagate Islam.  It was also through this group where Abdurajak delivered some of his Islamic discourses.  Because of charismatic lectures of Abdurajak, the Jamaa Tableegh received popularity not only in Basilan but also in Zamboanga and Jolo.[8]  The involvement of some of its followers in anti-government rallies prompted the military to put the group under surveillance.  Key followers of Jamaa Tableegh formed the nucleus of the ASG, which Abdurajak Janjalani initially called AHAI or the Islamic Movement. 

But a recent study states that the ASG first emerged in 1989.[9]  Based on existing records of the AFP and the Philippine National Police (PNP), Janjalani renamed the ASG as AHAI in 1994 to receive international funding and support.  

Though Janjalani was a known mujahedeen by its followers, his reputation of being a veteran of Afghan War is now being challenged.  There is no evidence showing that he actually fought in the Afghan War.    There was no doubt, however, that he was trained in Afghanistan.  He was described as a charismatic and serious Muslim scholar who ironically attended high school in Claret College, a Catholic-run school in the Basilan capital of Isabela. Janjalani also received a very good Islamic education in Saudi Arabia in 1981 and was sent to Ummu I-Qura in Mecca where he seriously studied Islamic jurisprudence for almost three years.[10]  He was later attracted deeply to the concept of jihad when he conscientiously studied in Pakistan.  Heavily armed with Islamic thoughts, Janjalani went back to his homeland in Basilan in 1984 to preach in various mosques.

While formally establishing the ASG, Janjalani became an avid preacher to limited audiences in Santa Barbara madrassah in Zamboanga City in the early 1990s.   During his preaching, Janjalani openly released different theological statements and public proclamations revealing his deep grasp of Islamic religion, particularly the Wahhabi Islamic theology. Wahhabism brands other Muslim sects as heretical.  Janjalani delivered at least eight discourses or Khutbah within a radical framework based on the Quranic concept of Jihad Fi-Sabil-lillah (the fighting and dying for the cause of Islam).[11] 

To advance his fanatical belief, Janjalani convinced some Muslim leaders in Basilan, Sulu, Tawi- Tawi, Zamboanga City and General Santos City to join the Juma’a Abu Sayyap movement, now rendered in English as the ASG.  Most of his recruits were disgruntled members of the MNLF and the MILF.  When Janjalani attended an Islamic course in Tripoli, Libya in 1987, he met like-minded Muslim Filipino students who eventually helped Janjalani to form the ASG.  These students had common remorse against the Philippine government based in Manila and against “heretic” leadership of the MNLF and the MILF.  Many scholars and journalists mistranslated ASG to mean “bearer of the sword”.[12]  But ASG really means in Arabic, “Father of the Swordsman”.[13]   

a)    Organizational Structure

When Abdurajak Janjalani formed the ASG, his original vision was to form a highly organized, systematic, and disciplined organization of fanatical secessionist Islamic fighters in the Southern Philippines. Janjalani recruited younger and more passionate Muslim leaders who studied Islamic theology in Saudi Arabia, Libya, Pakistan and Egypt.  These young Muslim leaders had common remorse against the MNLF, which entered into peace agreement with the Philippine government in 1996.  These leaders also shared common anger against the Philippine government based in Manila.

To achieve his vision of a truly organized Muslim resistant group in the Philippines, Janjalani deliberately made a detailed organization of the ASG.[14]  He formed the Islamic Executive Council (IEC) composed of fifteen Amirs.    Janjalani chaired the IEC to serve as the main planning and execution body of ASG.  Under the IEC were two special committees. The first committee was the Jamiatul Al-Islamia Revolutionary Tabligh Group in charged of fund raising and Islamic education.  The second committee was the Al-Misuaratt Khutbah Committee in charged of agitation and propaganda activities.[15]  

The ASG also established a military arm called Mujahidden Al-Sharifullah whose members came predominantly from disgruntled members of MNLF and the MILF.  This military arm had three main units to carryout all terrorist activities of the ASG: the Demolition Team, the Mobile Force Team and the Campaign Propaganda Team.  The Demolition Team composed mostly of trained fighters, had the capability to manufacture its own mines and explosives used in the bombing operations of the group.  The Mobile Force Team - composed mostly of affiliates of radio clubs, traders, businessmen, shippers, and professionals – was in charged of collaboration and coordination activities of the ASG.  The Campaign Propaganda Team – composed of professionals, students, and businessmen – was in charged of gathering vital information necessary to carry out the mission of Mujahidden Al-Sharifullah.[16] 

However, the original organizational set-up of ASG was short-lived.  When the combined forces of the Philippine police and the military killed the Janjalani in a bloody encounter in December 1998 in Lamitan, Basilan, the ASG suffered a severe leadership vacuum.  This led to the discontentment of some of its original members. The organization set-up by Janjalani crumbled rapidly with him.  The IEC headed by Janjalani also suffered an untimely demise. With no overall Amir at the helm of the organization, the group became a mere network of various armed groups with their own respective Amirs commanding their own respective loyal followers operating mainly in Sulu, Basilan and Tawi-Tawi.

With the death of Janjalani, remaining leaders, however, reluctantly selected Khadafy Janjalani, a younger brother, as his successor in July 1999.  But the ASG under the younger Janjalani had lost its original organization set-up and Islamic theological zeal.  Unlike the older Janjalani, the younger Janjalani did not have the theological passion of his brother.    Lacking strong ideological guide, most of its members resorted to banditry, piracy, kidnap-for-ransom, and other terrorist activities.  The ASG was also heavily factionalized.  Khadafy Janjalani attempted to revive the Islamist agenda of the ASG. But his confirmed death in January 2007 aborted his plan. 

According to various AFP reports, there are two major factions of the ASG operating independently in two major areas in the Southern Philippines: Basilan and Sulu.  Khadafy Janjalani, also known as Commander Moktar, used to head the Basilan-based ASG.   Galib Andang, otherwise known as Commander Robot, headed the Sulu-based ASG.  When these two leaders died, they were replaced by remaining ASG leaders.  At present, the Sulo faction is believed to be headed by Radullan Sahiron while the Basilan faction is believed to be headed by Khair Mundos.  There is also a reported faction in Zamboanga City engaged in covert operations.

There is a need to underscore that the ASG is not a homogenous organization.  Rather, the ASG is a very loose coalition of many groups of radical Muslim leaders and bandits commanding their own loyal followers in the Southern Philippines.  These groups have mixed objectives from Islamic fundamentalism to mere banditry.  Members of these groups pay allegiance mostly to their respective leaders rather than to ASG doctrines.  Not all groups are truly committed to the idea of a separate Islamic state in the Southern Philippines, though there is no doubt that some groups are really committed to the cause.  Some Muslim bandit groups in the Southern Philippines want to be associated with the ASG for prestige, political expediency and economic gains.  But the dynamics of these groups shares common feature:  they are highly personalistic rather than ideological groups of Muslim radicals. 

Because of intensified military campaigns of the Philippine government, some factions of the ASG were dismantled as a result of the capture, neutralization or death of their leaders.  Based on intelligence reports, the ASG strength has been reduced to less than 400 as of the end of 2010.

[1]See for example Department of National Defense, Info Kit on the Abu Sayyaf Group (Presented before the hearing of the  Senate Committee on National Defense and Security  at the Philippine Senate, Pasay City on 30 August 2001); and, Office of the Deputy Chief of Staff for Operations, Knowing the Terrorists:  The Abu Sayyaf Study (Quezon City:  General Headquarters of the Armed Forces of the Philippines, 2002).
[2]Khadaffy Janjalani, “A Brief History of the Al-Harakatul Islmamiyyah” at  
[3] See  Eusaquito P. Manalo, Philippine Response to Terrorism:  The Abu Sayyaf Group (MA Thesis:  Naval Post Graduate School, Monterey, California, December 2004), p. 3 and  Mark Turner, “The Management of Violence in a Conflict Organization:  The Case of the Abu Sayyaf”, Public Organization Review, Vol. 3, No. 4 (December 2003), p. 394.
[4] Dorian Zumel Sicat , “Transcript of Interview with Elmina Abdul, widow to Edwin Angeles “ (10 March 2002) at <>  (accessed 14 November 2005).
[5] Mirian Coronel Ferrer, ed., Peace Matters:  A Philippine Peace Compedium (Quezon City:  University of the Philippines Center for Integrative and Development Studies, 1997), p. 218.
[6] Marites D. Vitug and Glenda M. Gloria, Under the Crescent Moon:  Rebellion in Mindanao (Quezon City:  Ateneo Center for Social Policy and Public Affairs, Institute for Popular Democracy and Philippine Center for Investigative Journalism, 2000), p. 217. 
[7] For a complete copy of the report, see Basilan:  The Next Afghanistan? (Report of the International Peace Mission to Basilan, Philippines 23-27 March 2002) at <>  (accessed on 30 August 2004).
[8] Abu Hamdie, “The Abu Sayyaf Group” (undated and unpublished manuscript).
[9]Eusaquito P. Manalo, Philippine Response to Terrorism:  The Abu Sayyaf Group (MA Thesis:  Naval Post Graduate School, Monterey, California, December 2004). p. 31.
[10]Gloria, p. 2.
[11]Tan, “The Juma’a Abu Sayyap:  A Brief Assessment of its Origin, Objectives, Ideology and Method of Struggle”, p. 3.
[12]See For example, Turbiville, Jr.,   pp. 38-47.
[13]Jose Torres, Jr., Into the Mountain:  Hostages by the Abu Sayyaf (Quezon City:  Claretian Publications, 2001), p. 35.
[14] Office of the Deputy Chief of Staff for Operations, J3, Knowing the Terrorists:  The Abu Sayyaf Study (Quezon City:  Headquarters of the Armed Forces of the Philippines, undated).
[15]To know more about the strategy of the ASG, see  Office of the Assistant to the Chief of Staff for Intelligence, Field Handout:  Doctrinal Extract for the Abu Sayyaf Group (Headquarters of the Philippine Marine Corps, 21 January 2002).
[16]Ibid.  Also based on various intelligence briefings obtained by the author.

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Jemaah Islamiyah Briefer: Terrorist Activities, Targets and Victims

By Rommel C. Banlaoi

JI is regarded as the most notorious terrorist organization in Southeast Asia with region-wide reach.  Its terrorist operations and activities were not only limited in Indonesia but also in countries in Southeast Asia, particularly those areas under JI’s Mantiqi structure. JI, particularly the unstructured faction, endorses the targeting of civilians who are believed to be enemies of Islam.  Since 2000, JI has been involved in various terrorist attacks in Southeast Asia.   JI was responsible for the following terrorist activities:

·         An assassination attempt of Leonides Caday, Philippine Ambassador to Indonesia, on 1 August 2000 using an Improvised Explosive Devises (IEDs). The incident resulted in the killing two people and injuring 21 others including Ambassador Caday;
·         Christmas Eve Bombing on 24 December 2000 that involved a series of coordinated bombings of churches in Jakarta and eight other cities.  These bombings  killed 18 people and injured many others;
·         The Rizal Day Bombing on 30 December 2000 in various areas of Metro Manila. The Rizal Day Bombing led to the death of 21 victims and injury of more than 100 persons;
·         The Kidapawan Bombing in the Southern Philippines on 10 October , which killed six people and injured 24 others;
·         The Bali Bombing on 12 October 2002, which, stated earlier, resulted in the death of more than 200 persons and injury of 300 victims;
·         The J.W. Marriot Hotel Bombing in Jakarta on 5 August 2003.  It killed 12 persons and injured more than 150 others;
·         The Australia Embassy Bombin in Jakarta on 9 September 2004.  It killed 9 people and injured around 150 others; and,
·         The Second Bali Bombing on 1 October 2005 resulting in the death of 20 persons and injury of 129 others.

Targets of JI’s terrorist activities, therefore, were critical infrastructures like embassies, hotels, and beach resorts.  Most of the victims were civilians both locals and foreigners.  In the case of the 2002 Bali Bombing, most of the victims were Australians.

[This piece is taken from Rommel C. Banlaoi, Counter-Terrorism Measures in Southeast Asia:  How Effective Are They? (Manila: Yuchengco Center, 2009)].