Eyes of the Fleet

Eyes of the Fleet

Sunday, June 12, 2005

Philippines: Indonesian Sailors Rescued from Abu Sayyaf

Strategy Page reports from the Philippines here:
"On Jolo, soldiers rescued two of three Indonesian sailors kidnapped by Abu Sayyaf last March. The kidnappers were demanding a $790,000 ransom. The third hostage is expected to be free soon as well, as troops continue to chase the remaining gang members."
Of course,
Abu Sayyaf is the smaller of the Islamist groups fighting to establish an Iranian-style Islamic state in Mindanao, an island in the southern Philippines.

The Abu Sayyaf group, whose name means, “Bearer of the Sword,” split from the Moro National Liberation Front in 1991. Although based almost exclusively in the southern islands, Abu Sayyaf has ties to a number of Islamic fundamentalist organizations around the world, including Osama bin Ladin’s al-Qaida and Ramzi Yousef, who was convicted of organizing the 1993 bombing of the World Trade Center in New York.

Abduragak Abubakar Janjalani, the former leader of the group, like Osama bin Ladin, was a veteran of the war in Afghanistan. Abu Sayyaf has a membership of approximately several hundreds of young Islamic radicals, many of whom were recruited from univerities and high schools.(source)
The ASG is primarily a small, violent Muslim terrorist group operating in the southern Philippines. Some ASG leaders allegedly fought in Afghanistan during the Soviet war and are students and proponents of radical Islamic teachings. The group split from the much larger Moro National Liberation Front in the early 1990s under the leadership of Abdurajak Abubakar Janjalani, who was killed in a clash with Philippine police in December 1998. His younger brother, Khadaffy Janjalani, replaced him as the nominal leader of the group and appears to have consolidated power.

The ASG engages in kidnappings for ransom, bombings, beheadings, assassinations, and extortion. The group’s stated goal is to promote an independent Islamic state in western Mindanao and the Sulu Archipelago (areas in the southern Philippines heavily populated by Muslims) but the ASG has primarily used terror for financial profit. Recent bombings may herald a return to a more radical, politicized agenda, at least among certain factions. (source)
This, of course, places the ASG in the position of a terrorist group funding its actvities through acts of piracy. Note that this is contrary to this Malaysian position regarding the pirates of the Strait of Malacca:
Malaysia's defense minister, Najib Tun Razak, said his country has yet to find any "credible link" between terrorists and pirates who roam the strait in search of plunder.
He might want to think about this report:
Indonesian terrorists have been spotted in mountainous rural areas of the southern Philippines. The government fears that Jemaah Islamiyah (JI), the Indonesian branch of al Qaeda, is setting up camps in the south, aided by Islamic radicals belonging to the MILF. This sort of thing has been talked about for several years, but little hard evidence has been found. The military has a network of informers throughout the Moslem areas in the south, and these sources have been pretty reliable. (source)

JI is not, of course, limited to Indonesia:
JI is believed to have cells spanning Indonesia, Malaysia, the Philippines, southern Thailand, and Pakistan and may have some presence in neighboring countries. (source)
Why? The same source reports the goal of JI:
Jemaah Islamiya is a Southeast Asian–based terrorist network with links to al-Qaida. The network recruited and trained extremists in the late 1990s, following the stated goal of creating an Islamic state comprising Brunei, Indonesia, Malaysia, Singapore, the southern Philippines, and southern Thailand.
The Philippines has suspected that ASG JI and the MILF have been operating jointly for some time:
Billones said the latest find appeared to have validated recent intelligent reports that a group of fresh Jemaah Islamiya graduates were in Mindanao on a bombing mission hand in glove with the Abu Sayyaf and a faction of the separatist Moro Islamic Liberation Front. (source)
See this, too:
THE Abu Sayyaf group in Mindanao is slowly transforming into a major terrorist group capable of carrying out Bali-type attacks with the help of the Jemaah Islamiya (JI), experts said Thursday.

The JI’s strategy is to “insert” itself in conflict areas and foment sectarian violence, and there has been evidence to suggest that the Abu Sayyaf has received some form of training from them, said Zachary Abuza, director of the East Asian studies program at Simmons College in Boston.

The Islamic militant group Abu Sayyaf gained notoriety in 2000 and 2001 with a series of kidnappings of western tourists, including Americans.

More recently, the group has claimed credit for the fire bombing of a ferry on Manila Bay last year that killed more than 100 people, and simultaneous bombings of three targets in Makati and Mindanao last month that left 12 people dead.

Abuza, an acknowledged expert on cross-border terrorism, noted that the Abu Sayyaf’s recent bombing attacks appear to have the hallmarks of JI, whose alleged leader Abu Bakar Bashir was convicted Thursday for taking part in a “sinister conspiracy” that led to the Bali bombings in Indonesia that left 202 dead in 2002. (source)
If I haven't said it before, let me make it clear now. While much of the local piracy in the Malacca Strait is clearly just petty robbery, the kidnapping and ransom events are not in the same league and are of kind with the ASG kidnappings in the Philippines and, in my opinion, are being used to fund terrorist groups in the area in the same way ASG is using them to fund its operations in the Philippines.

Update: Arrow points to Jolo

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