Country Report on Terrorism 2019 - Chapter 5 - Abu Sayyaf Group (ASG)

Aka al Harakat al Islamiyya (the Islamic Movement)

Description:  The Abu Sayyaf Group (ASG) was designated as an FTO on October 8, 1997.  ASG split from the Moro National Liberation Front in the early 1990s and is one of the most violent terrorist groups in the Philippines.  The group claims to promote an independent Islamic state in western Mindanao and the Sulu Archipelago, and elements of the group have ties to ISIS’s regional affiliate ISIS-Philippines.

Activities:  ASG has committed kidnappings-for-ransom, bombings, ambushes of security personnel, public beheadings, assassinations, and extortion.

Throughout 2015, ASG was responsible for multiple attacks, kidnappings, and the killing of hostages.  In 2016 and 2017, the group conducted kidnapping-for-ransom operations targeting Canadian, Norwegian, German, and Filipino citizens.  In August 2017, ASG members killed nine people and injured others in an attack on Basilan Island.  In July 2018, ASG detonated a car bomb at a military checkpoint on Basilan Island, killing 10 people, including a Philippine soldier and pro-government militiamen.

ASG continued conducting terrorist attacks and kidnappings in 2019.  In May, ASG militants attacked Philippine soldiers on Jolo, resulting in the deaths of two children.  In October, ASG kidnapped two British nationals from a beach resort in the Zamboanga region, but they were recovered on Jolo in November.

Strength:  ASG is estimated to have hundreds of members.

Location/Area of Operation:  Philippines and Malaysia

Funding and External Aid:  ASG is primarily funded through its kidnapping-for-ransom operations and extortion.  The group may also receive funding from external sources, including remittances from overseas Philippine workers and Middle East-based sympathizers.  In the past, ASG has also received training and other assistance from regional terrorist groups such as Jemaah Islamiya.