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Map of Abu Sayyaf Group operational area


The Abu Sayyaf Group (ASG) is the most violent of the Islamic separatist groups operating in the southern Philippines and claims to promote an independent Islamic state in western Mindanao and the Sulu Archipelago. Split from the Moro National Liberation Front in the early 1990s, the group currently engages in kidnappings for ransom, bombings, assassinations, and extortion, and has had ties to Jemaah Islamiyah (JI). The ASG operates mainly in Basilan, Sulu, and Tawi-Tawi Provinces in the Sulu Archipelago and has a presence on Mindanao. Members also occasionally travel to Manila.

Abu Sayyaf Group flag
Abu Sayyaf Group flag

The ASG has used terror both for financial profit and to promote its jihadist agenda. In April 2000, an ASG faction kidnapped 21 persons—including 10 Westerners—from a Malaysian resort, and, in May 2001, the ASG kidnapped three US citizens and 17 Filipinos from a resort in Palawan, Philippines, later murdering several of the hostages, including one US citizen. In June 2002, one of the two remaining hostages was killed in a crossfire between Philippine soldiers and the ASG. On 27 February 2004, members of ASG leader Khadafi Janjalani’s faction bombed a ferry in Manila Bay, killing 116, and on 14 February 2005 they perpetrated simultaneous bombings in the cities of Manila, General Santos, and Davao, killing at least eight and injuring about 150. In 2006, Janjalani’s faction relocated to Sulu, where it joined forces with local ASG supporters who are providing shelter to fugitive JI members from Indonesia.

In July 2007, members of the ASG and the Moro Islamic Liberation Front engaged a force of Philippine marines on Basilan Island, killing 14. In November 2007, a motorcycle bomb exploded outside the Philippine Congress, killing a Congressman and three staff members. While there was no definitive claim of responsibility, three suspected ASG members were arrested during a subsequent raid on a safe house. In January 2009, the ASG kidnapped three International Red Cross workers in Sulu province, holding one of the hostages for six months. Philippine marines in February 2010 killed Albader Parad, one of the ASG’s most violent sub-commanders, on Jolo Island. In 2011, the ASG kidnapped several individuals and held them for ransom. In February 2012, a Philippine military airstrike against a terrorist encampment on Jolo Island killed senior ASG leader Gumbahali Jumdail, also known as Dr. Abu.In March 2013, the ASG released an Australian citizen the group had held hostage for fifteen months. In June 2014, Philippine authorities arrested senior ASG figure ASG Khair Mundos in metro Manila.