2009 Sulu Kidnapping Crisis
Abu Sayyaf (Arabic: جماعة أبو سياف; Jamāʿah Abū Sayyāf, ASG, Filipino: Grupong Abu Sayyaf) also known as al-Harakat al-Islamiyya is one of several militant Islamist separatist groups based in and around the southern Philippines, in Bangsamoro (Jolo and Basilan), where for almost 30 years Muslim groups have been engaged in an insurgency for an independent province in the country. The name of the group is derived from the Arabic ابو, abu ("father of") and sayyaf ("swordsmith"). The group calls itself "Al-Harakat Al-Islamiyya" or the "Islamic Movement".
Since its inception in the early 1990s, the group has carried out bombings, kidnappings, assassinations and extortion in what they describe as their fight for an independent Islamic province in the Philippines. Abu Sayyaf seeks the establishment of an Iranian-style Islamic theocracy in the southern Philippines. Abu Sayyaf forces in Basilan and in Zamboanga Peninsula were, by June 2003, believed to number less than 500, down from more than 1,000 a year earlier. They use mostly grenades, bombs, machine guns, rifles, and rocket launchers.
The United States Department of State has classified the group as a terrorist group by adding it to the list of Foreign Terrorist Organizations. In 2002, fighting Abu Sayyaf became a mission of the American military's Operation Enduring Freedom and part of the U.S. War on Terror. The CIA has deployed paramilitary officers from their elite Special Activities Division to hunt down and kill or capture key terrorist leaders. Several hundred United States soldiers are also stationed in the area to mainly train local forces in counter terror and counter guerrilla operations, but as a status of forces agreement and under Philippine law are not allowed to engage in direct combat.
Abu Sayyaf is also involved in criminal activities, including kidnapping, rape, child sexual assault, drive-by shooting, extortion, and drug trafficking.
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