So far in this series about terror groups in the Philippines, we have talked about the MNLF, NPA, MILF, and today we will wrap up our look at such groups by looking at the Abu Sayyaf Group. These guys are serious, and you should avoid them at all cost if you are traveling in the Philippines. Of the groups we have discussed, the Abu Sayyaf Group (ASG) is the youngest of them all, yet by far the most dangerous as well.
The ASG came into existence in the early 1990’s under the leadership of Abdurajak Janjalani, and later operated by others of the Janjalani family (brothers) as these leaders were killed. Most of those in the ASG, particularly in it’s early days were veterans of the Mujahadin in Afghanistan in the 1980’s, when the Afghanis were fighting against the Soviet Union. Many of these Muslim Filipinos went to Afghanistan to participate in the movement. When they returned to the Philippines, they continued their mujahadin activities, only in the Philippines instead of Afghanistan. While some of these early members were serious about a Moro movement bringing Independence for a Bangsamoro land in the Philippines, over the years, the group became more of a crime group that concentrated on terrorizing people in exchange for money.
This group, without a doubt poses serious threat to foreigners traveling in the Philippines. Over the years many people have been killed by the ASG, especially foreigners. Their favorite means of killing is by beheading their captives, not a particularly nice way to go, if you ask me. Over the past few years, many of the leaders of the group have been killed by the Philippine Military, and thus the group has been in flux and because of that it has not been the major threat that it was some 10 years ago or so.
I have traveled in some Abu Sayyaf strongholds, though, but would not recommend it for most people. I guess that sometimes I go to some places where I probably should not go, but that’s just how I am, and I enjoy making such trips. I do take precautions, though, in order to gain as much safety as I can before going to these places. I have spent time in Tawi Tawi and Basilan, and some other areas that have been under the influence of the Abu Sayyaf over the years. However, keep in mind that even if you are not in areas that are considered Abu Sayyaf areas, there have been incidents where the ASG has gone into other areas to take captives, and bring those captives into areas where they had control.
In April 2000, the Abu Sayyaf went to Sipadan, Malaysia and took 21 foreign hostages, then took them to Mindanao and held them for quite a long captivity, until great sums of ransom money were paid. Then, toward the end of 2000, an American named Jeffrey Schilling was taken hostage and held for 8 months before escaping. Later, in May 2001, the Abu Sayyaf took hostages from a resort on Palawan Island, including Martin and Gracia Burnham and other Americans. Since this event, I do not believe that the Abu Sayyaf has taken any other Americans hostage.
So, you should do all you can to avoid the ASG when traveling in the Philippines. Your life depends on it.