One of the leaders of Abu Sayyaf is reportedly among those killed in a shootout with the Philippine Army yesterday. Muamar Askali, also known as Abu Rami sometimes acted as a spokesman for the jihadist group. The firefight erupted on the island of Bohol in the central Philippines, with five rebels and four Filipino soldiers killed…we have background on Abu Sayyaf from Neal Conan in today’s Pacific News Minute.
In the early 1990s, a Jihadi named Abdurajik Abubakar Janjalani returned home from the war in Afghanistan to the impoverished island of Basilon. He brought six million dollars and a mission he reportedly received from Osama Bin Laden himself, to spark an Islamic insurgency. Janjalani adopted the name Abu Sayyaf, which translates as the Swordbearers.
After the founder was killed in a fight with Philippine troops in 1998, his younger brother Khadaffy Janjalani took over, and shifted tactics from insurrection to kidnappings. While most of the victims are Filipinos, the group raided resorts, including some in Malaysia, and they took up piracy. One report put its revenue in ransom at between 10 and 25 million dollars in the year 2000 alone. When ransoms aren’t paid, victims are beheaded. In 2004, the group smuggled a television set packed with explosives aboard a large ferry in Manila Bay. The blast killed one hundred sixteen people; the worst terrorist incident in the country’s history.
Khadaffy Janjanli died in a shootout in 2006. The senior leader now is Isnilon Hapilon, who declared his allegiance to the Islamic State in 2014. Last year, Abu Sayyaf set off a bomb that killed 15 people in Davao City, the hometown of President Rodrigo Duterte. Since he took office, Duterte has alternated between vows to destroy the group and offers to negotiate.