5 things to know about the terror group Abu Sayyaf
Published Monday, April 25, 2016 5:00PM EDT
Canadian political scientist Christian Leuprecht says he is “unfortunately not surprised” that Abu Sayyaf killed Canadian hostage John Ridsdel in the Philippines, citing the group’s reputation for brutality.
Here are 5 things to know about the terrorist organization:
1. Abu Sayyaf is pushing for a separate Islamic state in the country’s south
Abu Sayyaf, which means Bearer of the Sword, was founded about 25 years ago and is pushing to create an Islamic state with Sharia law in the southern islands of Mindanao and Sulu. The Philippines is five per cent Muslim and 83 per cent Roman Catholic, but most Muslims are concentrated in the south.
2. Canada, the U.S. and the Philippines list Abu Sayyaf as a terrorist group
A local court ruling in 2015 declared Abu Sayyaf a terrorist organization under the country’s anti-terror law, after it declared allegiance to the Islamic State terror group. Canada added the group to its list of terrorist entities in 2003. The U.S. also considers Abu Sayyaf a terror group.
3. Abu Sayyaf also engages in organized crime
Although the group claims to be fighting a religious struggle, Abu Sayyaf is more of “a family compact, a group of powerful families that feel aggrieved by the Philippine state and (have) essentially forged together a quasi-organized-crime cartel,” Leuprecht told CTV News Channel. Public Safety Canada states that Abu Sayaff “primarily uses terrorism for profit.”
4. The group has killed western hostages in the past
Abu Sayyaf kidnapped 21 people, including three Americans at a resort in 2000. One of the Americans was beheaded, another was killed when the army intervened and the third was wounded. However, in 2013 the group did release an Australian who they had held hostage for 15 months. Earlier this month, they released a kidnapped Italian priest.
5. Abu Sayyaf committed the biggest terrorist attack in Filipino history
Abu Sayyaf bombed a ferry near Manila on Feb. 27, 2004, killing 116 people. Less than a year later, on Feb. 14, 2005, it bombed the cities of Manila, General Santos and Davao, killing eight and injuring more than 100. The Philippine military has fought back, killing some of the group’s top leaders in recent years, according to the U.S. National Counterterrorism Center.
With files from The Associated Press