Philippines: Janjalani and the Future of Abu Sayyaf

3 MINS READJan 9, 2007 | 01:23 GMT
The brother of Abu Sayyaf leader Khadaffy Janjalani said in an interview published Jan. 8 that Janjalani is alive, and that captured Abu Sayyaf members who revealed the location of Janjalani's purported burial site in December were only after the reward. Hector Janjalani also told ABS-CBN News he will not provide Philippine authorities with a DNA sample to check against that collected from the body. Janjalani is believed to have been mortally wounded in a Sept. 4, 2006, clash with Philippine troops on Jolo Island. As one of the last remaining Abu Sayyaf leaders committed to the jihadist ideology, Janjalani is vital to the group's jihadist core, and his death would cause Abu Sayyaf to further devolve from a jihadist movement into a loosely knit criminal organization. Therefore, jihadists wanting to keep the remnants of the jihadist core united must continue to support the notion that Janjalani is alive.
The Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) announced Dec. 27 that authorities, acting on a tip from captured Abu Sayyaf members, had recovered what they believed to be Janjalani's body from a burial site in a remote area about a mile and a half from the location of the Sept. 4 gunbattle. However, Hector Janjalani, who is in custody in New Bilibid Prison near Manila on a kidnapping charge, contends the Abu Sayyaf members provided the information in an effort to collect the $5 million reward. Hector also said a DNA test is unnecessary because his brother is alive. Indeed, Janjalani has been reported dead in the past, only to turn up alive later. Since 2002, U.S. military aid has enabled the AFP to more aggressively pursue militants on Mindanao Island and the Sulu Archipelago, particularly Abu Sayyaf and elements of the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF). Recent AFP efforts in the southern Philippines appear to have allowed troops to close in on both Janjalani and Jemaah Islamiyah bombmaker Dulmatin. The battle that could have resulted in Janjalani's death occurred during a major AFP offensive in the area. Intelligence gained from the capture of members of Dulmatin's family in the Sulu Archipelago by Philippine security forces in October 2006 could have led them closer to Janjalani. As militant groups come under military pressure or lose their sources of funding, they often transform into groups more closely resembling criminal organizations. When a group is put under such pressure, some members who oppose any dialogue with the government often split into factions in order to carry on the fight or to continue supporting themselves through violent means. Such is the case with MILF since the group entered into a cease-fire with Manila in July 2003. Since then, factions of the group that have not adhered to the cease-fire have engaged Philippine troops in gunbattles and carried out small-scale attacks in Mindanao. Abu Sayyaf began to fracture after it became too large to control across Mindanao's rugged terrain, and groups using the Abu Sayyaf name began to embark on their own criminal enterprises. Janjalani's death would likely mean the end of Abu Sayyaf as a militant jihadist organization — though the threat in the southern Philippines would continue. Lacking a strong leader, the jihadists within the group could turn to criminal activity to sustain themselves, which could result in even more violence in the region.

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