Deterred But Not Defeated: The Case of Abu Sayyaf’s Resilience

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Abdul Razak Ahmad
Ahmad Zikri Rosli


The Abu Sayyaf Group (ASG) is known for its criminal and terror operations. Since the group's base is located in islands in the southern Philippines such as Basilan and Sulu, its notorious activities have extended to neighbouring countries; Malaysia and Indonesia. Thereby, making the group a destabilising force for regional security. This article discusses the factors that shaped the resilience of the ASG by looking at the evolution of the group for more than three decades. The evolutionary phases of the group will be divided into four: the early years (the 1980s-2001), the post-9/11 tragedy (2002-2014), the rise of ISIS (2014-2017), and the post-ISIS (2018-Present). Based on the analysis of the group’s evolution, this article argues that the ability of the ASG to shift its focus of operations from criminal activities such as kidnapping for ransom and piracy to terrorist acts and vice versa has contributed to its resilience. Three interrelated factors have made possible for the fluidity of the group: the factionalised structure of the group, the existence of an international terrorist organization as a patron, and the convenience of committing crimes.


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