Jolo, Philippines History

1200 A.D.


As early as the 9th century, Chinese traders came to the Philippines. Their junks docked on the shores of the islands, bringing porcelain, silk, beads and lead sinkers for which Filipinos traded cotton, yellow wax, pearls, betel nuts, tortoise shells, coconuts, sweet potatoes, obacc cloth and coconut leaf mats. Chau Ju Kuo, a Chinese merchant, paid tribute to Filipino honesty. In an account written in 1225, the merchant stated that Filipinos would carry off Chinese goods to be sold inland and they would always return to bring back whatever payment was agreed upon.

1300 A.D.


The history of Southeast Asia indicates that Islam may have filtered into Sulu and Mindanao as early as the 9th century. In the Philippines, early evidence is furnished by a tombstone found in Mt. Data, Jolo, Sulu. The tombstone bears the inscription 710 A.D., or 1310 in the Christian calendar. The Maguindonoo of Cotabato maintain a tradition that Shorif Muhammad Kabungsuwan, a nobleman from Malacca, ancient Malaysia, brought Islam to them in 1515 and established the Sultanate.



On Sunday, 31 March 1521, the first mass was celebrated on the island of Limasawa by Fr. Pedro de Vaiderroma, chaplain of Ferdinand Magellan, a Portuguese seaman who sailed in the name of the Spanish King. The mass was attended by Magellan, Raja Awi, Raja Kolambu, members of the Spanish expedition and inhabitants of the island. After the moss, a cross was erected on the island.



Magellan sailed to Cebu where he was warmly received by its ruler, Raja Humabon, At that time, Raja Humabon was having problems with one of his vassals, Lapu-Lapu, the chief of Mactan, a small island off Cebu, Magellan decided to sail to Mactan to subdue its rebellious chieftain and impress his native friend with his superior fighting prowess. The Battle of Mactan, the first violent encounter between Filipinos and Spaniards, took place in the early morning of 27 April 1521. Magellan was killed in that encounter. Lapu-Lapu became the first Filipino hero.



The fourth Spanish expedition to the Philippines reached its destination in 1564. It was led by Miguel Lopez de Legazpi who was assisted by the Augustinian friar, Andres de Urdaneta. The fleet dropped anchor in Samar in February 1565, but continued to sail to Leyte, Manicani, Limasawa and Camiguin where the hostile inhabitants refused to give them food. Finally, the Spaniards reached Bohol where friendly islanders met them. Legazpi, acting out of goodwill, entered into a blood compact with the native ruler, Raja Sikatuna.


In 1571, the Spaniards led by Martin de Goiti took Manila. The native inhabitants set their village on fire leaving its charred remains to the Spaniards who rebuilt and fortified it. Later the Spaniards would call the settlement lntramuros meaning 'within the walls.Depicted in the diorama is the legendary metaismith Panday Pira whom the Spaniards recruited to help build the city. In Lomayan (Santa Ana), he set up a foundry for cannons and other artillery for the defense of the newly founded city of Manila.


This Paper is a view of the group Abu Sayyaf; meaning "bearer of the sword" in Arabic. This group today (1999-2004) is noted for ambushing government forces, kidnappings, piracy, killing, and frequently beheading captives. Abu Sayyaf remain engaged in clashes with the Philippine Armed Forces and continue to perpetrate a mixture of political terrorism and banditry throughout the Southern Philippines. Abu Sayyaf purported links to al-Qaeda and its asserted devotion to a radical, perverted form of Islam identify the Abu Sayyaf Group (ASG) as a terror group. This paper looks at ASG, who they are, and their history as a matter of fact and a reportable fact of history.

Moros, Insurgency, and the Operational Environment

Insurgency in the Philippines may be a continuing a struggle that can be traced back to the 15th and 16th centuries. Islam arrived in the southern Philippines in the 14th century, spread from the Indonesian Archipelago by seafaring Muslim traders and teachers, and by the 16th century, had spread throughout the islands of the Sulu Archipelago into Mindanao, pushing North. These communities were based on their own developing concepts of authority, social relationships, and sovereignty.[1]

These Islam Moro communities collided violently with Spanish explorers and a population that had converted to Catholicism. The Spanish called the Muslim people they found there Moros, or Moors. While Islam was pushed southward and constrained by Spain, an armed, effective Moro resistance began immediately. It continued until 1898 when the United States defeated the Spanish in the Spanish-American War. The Moros emerged in 1899 with religious and cultural identities intact and, at the very end, enthusiastically wiped out isolated Spanish garrisons before U.S. forces arrived to take over the Jolo, Sulu area.

U.S. Military and the Moros

The Philippines were ceded into the United States under the 1898 Treaty of Paris.  Resistance started in the Sunni Muslim South. The 1899-1902 Philippine Insurrection in the north was successfully put down and declared officially ended on 4 July 1902.  U.S. President Theodore Roosevelt noted, "peace has been established in all parts of the archipelago except in the country inhabited by the Moro tribes". Full-fledged conflict in the South had broken out in May 1902.  There was a series of incidents, rising tensions, and Moro resistance to incorporating Muslim lands into the Philippine state under U.S. control.  The Moros wanted none of the US and were determined to fight for there absolute independance from any country be it Philippines, Spain, or the United States.

The U.S. Army and Navy found themselves engaged with a Moro enemy who quickly earned a place as one of the bravest, most dedicated, and resourceful adversaries. U.S. military became aware of the impact of Islamic religious fervor that caused the Moros to  mobilized in pursuit of what many Moros still consider their wholly earned and justified right to their independence. 

Moros were poorly armed compared to U.S. Military.  The U.S. soldiers had many weapon; the .30-caliber Krag-Jorgensen rifle—M1892 and M1896 models with a 5-shot magazine—backed up by Gatling and Hotchkiss guns and several models of light cannons.  The Moros possessed a variety of older weapons, including muzzle-loaders and some primitive brass cannons. It was the Moros' skill and surprising effectiveness in using edged weapons that generated the greatest respect and fear for they often came and attacked on suicide missions determined to kill at all cost including their own death.  The U.S. troops came to recognize and understand the capabilities of the Moros barung with its 1½-foot leaf-shaped blade; the 3½-foot kampilan long sword, traditional fighting weapon of the Maguindanao and Maranao Moros; and the sword most identified with the Moros, the kris, a superb weapon of varying length that had a distinctive wavy-edged blade that became famous at the time.

Moros were extremely effective at jungle, forest, and swamp ambushes and also fought well from their forts, called cottas, or kutas. Moro attacks on moving columns or sleeping encampments were sudden, often involving bloody hand-to-hand fighting, as kris- and spear-wielding Moros closed quickly with better-armed Americans and used their edged weapons and spears. American troops had not seem this kind of fighting since Revolutionary War and the Indian Wars.

US Troops had a problem distinguishing Moro male combatants from females.   Females were also sometimes combatants as well as the mem.  US Troops were not use to fighting woman.  This was a major problem for the US men.  The problem was worse because the women were dressed in the same clothes as male fighters. The U.S. Army orders forbade firing on groups of Filipinos that contained women.  An additional military problem was the fact the extraordinary vitality and beliefs of the Moro fighters cause them to continue forward in sucide after being shot multiple times to complet the thrust of their Kris with their last breath.  Their Moro practice in the suicide attacks, or constructive self-destruction, around the world that Muslim fighters makes them a particulary dangerous ememy, because there is no reguard for life.

Juramentado and Jihad

Americans quickly became familiar with the Moro practice in the suicide attacks.  The Spanish before the Americans called it juramentado, roughly translated into "oath-taking." It is the Sulu Moro interpretation of jihad.  This dedication swore to kill as many Christians as possible before dying with their reward being ascent into paradise. A lone Moro juramentado would attack an entire group with the sole purpose to kill and die.  The Bangsamoro mujahideen took it as a personal duty to Allah to continue to fight to the death. 

Fall 1899, Lieutenant John J. Pershing arrived in the Philippines where he is assigned to the Eighth Army Corps. His mission was mainly to subdue the combative Moro tribesmen. Eventually promoted to Captain.Pershing on February 2nd, 1901.   He serves as an adjutant, engineer, customs officers and cavalry commander.  It is inportant to note that Pershing was in the Philippines from Fall 1899 to June 1913.  Pershing was elevated to Brigadier General by President Roosevelt in 1906 and sent back to the Philippines as a provincial governor in the southern Philippines where he had to deal with the Moros.
Brigadier General John J. Pershing leading the 8th Infantry, Battle of Bagsak Mountain on Jolo Island, 11-15 June 1913.

A Moro warrior captured by U.S. soldiers after the 4-day Battle of Bagsak Mountain.
There is reson to believe that the constant attacks of the Moros sneek attacks with the kris or barung and killing Jolo citizens, Jolo officials, American soldiers and/or civilians during 1912 and the first of 1913  cause pressure on the American general to go out and attck the Moros.  It was well known that the .38-caliber U.S. Army revolver would not stop the Moro warrior before he kill the American who had already shot the Moro mulit times.  When Brigadier General John J. Pershing received a shippment of the new more powerful harder-hitting .45-caliber automatic revolver, he would have a wepon that could stop an attacking Moro juramentados. 


William Hamden Sage, Major General, United States Army served as Adjutant General, 1st and 2nd Brigades, 1st Division, XIII Army Corps; Adjutant General, 3rd District, Mindanao and Jolo, Philippines; Malsbang, Philippines, 1906;


December 24, 1941 <>In the eve of December 24, 1941 the  Japanese invade the Philippines by landed in Igasan, Municipality of Patikul.  Japanese Vice Admiral Takahashi's naval forces invade Jolo 24 Dec 1941.  <>The next day, the Japanese Imperial Army occupied the town of Jolo without resistance.  Because there was little resistance, there was minimal destruction to the town of Jolo. The Philippine Army did resist the invasion but it was at Quezon beach in Igasan, Patikul municipality. The Philippine Army defenders had to give way to a superior and modern Japanese Army. Casualties on both sides in the invasion of Jolo were minimal because resistance to the Japanese enemy was brief.  The result was the Japanese occupied Jolo from 1942 to 1944.  The Japanese administration of Jolo during this period left the governmental functions and adminsistration to the "puppet government" whose administration complied with the Japanese direction and there was virtually no resistance thus the apparance of a peaceful period of Jolo.

Japanese Navy establish bases throughout the Philippines for further conquest. Even before the end of December the Japanese were building bases at Davao (on Mindanao) and at Jolo (in the Sulu Archipelago) for their next attacks.  On December 27th the US Army Air Patrol Wing TEN sent six PBY's north to attack Japanese shipping at Jolo; but, Japanese fighters intercepted them and shot down four.  Many of the US men were saved inspite of being shot down. The Japanese yellow tide was rolling on in the Philippines. The United States submarines were being forced to operate farther to the south in their attacks on the Japanese enemy communications. But they were doing better. On January 7th 1942, The US Seawolf came into Soerabaja after having sunk four Japanese ships off Hainan, thus equaling the record of the most successful Dutch submarines.

Japanese military tactics were becoming clear. They depended heavily upon air power. They did build up their air forces at many bases quickly and Jolo was one of them.  Japanese planes proceeded to overcome Allied air opposition when there was any. Sometimes this was done by seaplanes, sometimes by carrier planes, or, if the distance was not too great, by land-based planes. Then they sent down heavily loaded transports, keeping to shallow water and screening them heavily against submarines, and landed men and even heavy equipment without wharves. Generally the distance was too short to permit United States naval forces to attack them en route. As soon as they were in control of the new area, they repaired the air field and set about gathering force for the next advance.

These Japanese military tactics were well adapted to the nature of the Islands. The absence of interior communications in most of the islands-outside Java and Sumatra there are only about 50 miles of railroad in the whole group.  The very few roads-meant that it was necessary to seize only a few coastal points and to control the sea and air in their vicinity.  Since the Japanese maintained the initiative it was simple for them to build up a local sea and air superiority for each move.

On February 25, 1942 word was received from Unites States General MacArthur that on the 20th nearly 100 Japanese ships had assembled at Jolo. The same day (25th) a reconnaissance plane reported about 80 ships (evidently the same force) on a southerly course in the Strait of Makassar. Unfortunately the reporting US plane was attacked and shot down before it could transmit further details.


When the Americans invaded Leyte in 1944, organized government in Jolo gradually disintegrated when the people began to evacuate the town.  The American forces increased the pressure against the Japanese forces. April 1944, the first American forces landed in Jolo.  While in conflict with the Japanese forces there was significant damage and destruction to about fifty per cent (50%) of the town, predominantly in Tulay, Chinese Pier, Walled City and Police Constabulary (PC) at Barangay Asturias.  These were the Japanese forces had their headquarters during their period of occupation.

Many tragedies had befallen Jolo since its existence way back during the Spanish era. The most infamous was the siege of Jolo by the Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF) headed by Prof. Nur P. Misuari on February 7, 1974, which lasted for two days

Jolo, Philippines 1944 (266K)
    Published by U.S. Army Map Service, 1944.

1972 U.S.-born archbishop in Jolo, Philippines

Archbishop Philip F. Smith of Cotabato, Philippines, a U.S.-born missionary who served in the South Asian archipelago for more than 50 years. He was born in Lowell, Mass., he joined the Oblates of Mary Immaculate and was ordained in 1950. He arrived in the Philippines in 1951. In 1972, he was named apostolic vicar of Jolo, Philippines, and appointed bishop later that year. As Bishop of Jolo, he supported the establishment of housing projects to bring together Christians and Muslims after the burning of the town of Jolo in 1974.


To 21st-century Filipino commentators, the 11 September 2001 terrorist attacks on the World Trade Center and Pentagon immediately suggested juramentado. One observer noted: "the decision of the [11 September] hijackers to kill as many people as possible and have themselves killed in the process is reminiscent of the Muslim juramentados in Zamboanga and Jolo in the southern Philippines during the American colonization of the islands in the early 1900s."13

Continuing Moro Armed Resistance in the 20th Century

Moro engagements with U.S. forces continued periodically from the first pitched battle in 1902 until the official end of military rule in 1913. The interruption of World War I, an interwar period that saw increased local northern Filipino jurisdiction over Moro affairs, and Japan's occupation of the Philippines in World War II shaped and frustrated Moro aspirations for independence. The Moros fiercely resisted Japanese occupiers, but in the postwar granting of the Philippines' independence on 4 July 1946, the Moros found themselves incorporated into the Republic of the Philippines. Over the next decades, there was continued Moro resistance to this integration. Government-sponsored migration of Christian Filipinos to traditional Muslim lands in the south and what Philippine Muslims saw as the massive transfer of land titles from Moro peoples fueled this resistance. Current Moro resistance spokesmen draw a parallel with this influx of Filipinos from the north and the "policies enacted by `Israel' against the Palestinian people."14 The government and the Christian north emphasized threats to the Moros' Muslim identity.
Moro guerrillas on the Philippine island of Jolo stand inspection for Major General Jens A. Doe, commanding general of the 41st Infantry Division, April 1945.

Moros assert their marginalization by the government in other forms—local investment, education, health care, access to the justice system, and other complaints—were added to traditional aspirations for independence. Violent Christian gangs, in collusion with local constabularies and especially the Jabidah massacre on 18 March 1968, played catalytic roles in growing Moro militancy during Ferdinand Marcos' presidency. The Philippine Army killed at least 28 Moro recruits on Corregidor Island. These recruits—in the Jabidah Special Forces—were undergoing training in unconventional warfare with the alleged aim of seizing the disputed Malaysian state of Sabah on the island of Borneo under a plan code-named Operation Merdeka. The Moro recruits were allegedly shot for refusing to obey orders and to keep them from revealing details of the operation.15

One direct result of this event was the clandestine formation of the Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF) in late 1969. Moro students studying at universities in the Philippines, Egypt, and elsewhere in the Middle East who were dedicated to creating an independent Muslim nation in the south Philippines formed the MNLF.16 The MNLF gained foreign support from Muammar Qaddafi in Libya and from the governor in Sabah, Malaysia, who supplied arms and other aid from Libya as well as training for Moro youths. Bolstered by foreign arms and supplies, by the mid-1970s, the MNLF had perhaps 30,000 men under arms and had been engaging Philippine Army units and police in the Sulu Archipelago and Mindanao. Initial successes began to fade by late 1975; however, a leadership change in Sabah state limited resupply and effective government amnesty programs. Nevertheless, a cease-fire in 1976 and the establishment of a provisional autonomous, but not independent, Muslim zone in the south Philippines seemed to signify real gains for the MNLF. Subsequent backing from Iran in the wake of the 1979 Iranian revolution also bolstered the MNLF's international support.17
Philippine Datu (Chief) Halun Amilusia with his father's World War II M-1 carbine, Jolo, Philippines, 1987. The datu boasts that his rifle has killed Japanese, Muslims during feuds, and soldiers from the Philippine Armed Forces. The datu's younger brother and father, who was awarded the Bronze Star for his guerrilla activities against the Japanese, were killed in 1985 when Philippine Army troops attacked his house.

In 1979, a short-lived rival group designated the Bangsa Moro Liberation Organization was formed under the leadership of expatriate Moros based in Saudi Arabia. In 1977, a leadership split in the MNLF resulted in a breakaway organization that, by 1983, adopted the name of the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF).18 The MILF, though smaller than its predecessor, also had substantial numbers of armed combatants.19 For a time, these three Muslim organizations sought primacy as representatives for the Moro people, punctuated by low-level clashes, cease-fires, and discussions among their members and the Philippine Government.20 This complexity was accompanied by another development far removed geographically—the beginning of the Soviet-Afghan war in December 1979—that would eventually generate another, more radical, Muslim insurgent group in the Philippines—the ASG.21

Abu Sayyaf: From Afghanistan to the War on Terrorism

While accounts of the ASG's formation vary in detail and interpretation, it is roughly agreed that Moro founder and first leader Abdurajik Abubakar Janjalani was studying in the Middle East when he fell under the influence of the Wahabi theology espoused by Professor Abdul Rasul Abu Sayyaf. The Afghan, and ethnic Pashtun, professor was a follower of the puritanical Saudi Islamic sect—named for its 18th-century founder Muhammad ibn Abd al Wahab—that branded other Muslim sects as heretical.22 After the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan, Abu Sayyaf, said to be a kind of swashbuckling, charismatic figure, formed a mujahideen group in 1986 that operated near Kabul against Soviet forces. Designated the Islamic Union, radical Saudi Arabian Wahabi backers heavily financed the group, and it aligned with the Muslim Brotherhood. It became an important part of the centralized effort Jordanian Palestinian Abdullah Azam began in about 1984 to bring in foreign Muslim fighters and support. Financial and other support was often filtered through Muslim charities.

The ASG was reported to have trained some 20,000 foreign mujahideen fighters. Many of them trained at a camp near Peshawar, Pakistan, that prepared fighters from the Middle East, North Africa, and the Philippines. Janjalani himself arrived in Af-ghanistan in 1986 and reportedly joined Sayyaf's Islamic Union. He probably received his training at a Sayyaf camp and appears to have stayed in Afghanistan as a mujahideen until the end of the war. Like thousands of non-Afghan Muslims, including Egyptians, Saudis, Algerians, Chechens, Uzbeks, Kuwaitis, Uighurs from Xinjiang in China, and others, Janjalani was determined to help drive the Soviets out of Afghanistan. With that goal achieved in February 1989, most foreign mujahideen veterans scattered to Muslim countries around the world. As is well documented, many of them became part of insurgent and armed opposition groups waging jihad against regimes seen as heretical or as having been too influenced by the West.23 Support networks and ties established in Afghanistan endured and developed, coming to play roles in attacks on U.S. lives, property, and interests around the world over the next decade.

Between 1989 and 1990, Janjalani appears to have left Afghanistan and returned to his Basilan Island home in the Philippines just across the narrow strait from the Mindanao capital, Zamboanga.24 He and many other Afghan Moros returned from the Afghan jihad with a view to duplicating Afghanistan's success—in this case, establishing an independent and assertively Muslim state in the southern Philippines. Some returning Moro mujahideen joined the MNLF, and others joined the MILF.25 Janjalani, however, believed in a so-called "pure" form of Islam on the Wahabi model. In his Basilan hometown of Tabuk, it was said that there was an old world atmosphere in which the women wore black and the men wore either gray or white.26 He set about with a few followers to establish a new insurgent group that he dubbed Abu Sayyaf, evidently to be resonant of his Afghan mentor. Dissident elements of the MNLF led by a man with similar views, a religious teacher named Wahab Akbar, joined him in this endeavor.27 From a group with an initial membership of about 20 and the goal of establishing a pure Islamic state in Mindanao, the ASG grew to at least several hundred members and made its presence felt in Basilan, the Sulu Archipelago, and some parts of Mindanao.28

The ASG impressed itself on the public consciousness with its brutal bombings, murders, assaults, and ambushes as well as robberies, extortion, and kidnappings that have become its trademark. One sizable ASG element being pursued by the Philippine Armed Forces and backed by U.S. material aid and possibly advisers still holds two missionaries from the Wichita, Kansas, area and a Filipino nurse.29 The ASG also draws on the strong Moro maritime heritage, operating as successful pirates in Philippine coastal waters and sometimes farther from home. Filipino commentators have drawn parallels between legendary Sulu pirate Jikiri of the early 20th century and Abu Sayyaf. After years of successful depredations ostensibly carried out on behalf of Moro rights, Jikiri was killed in a hand-to-hand battle with a U.S. officer on the island of Patian.30 Today, commercial shipping enterprises fear that the ASG and other groups will turn their attention increasingly to the soft targets that maritime carriers present.31

The Philippine Army and police have scored successes against the ASG, including killing its founder, Janjalani, in a December 1998 gun battle and capturing or killing other leaders and members. Khaddafy Janjalani, younger brother of the founder and named for the Libyan leader who has supported Moro causes, now heads the ASG.

The reported ties between Osama bin Laden and the ASG date to Afghanistan in the 1980s when bin Laden, like Janjalani, was closely linked to Professor Sayyaf's Islamic Union and fought with their forces.32 In the post-Afghan war days, bin Laden's al-Qaeda organization reportedly funneled money and other support to the ASG, although the precise nature of the aid is not known. As early as the mid-1990s, bin Laden's brother-in-law, a Saudi financier named Muhammad Jamal Khalifa, was alleged to be one of the principal vectors of funding to the ASG and perhaps other Philippine Muslim insurgent groups as well. Through an Islamic charity in the Philippines, some sources have linked Khalifa to a key individual, Ramzi Yusuf, who was involved in the 1993 World Trade Center bombing.33

Other funding sources linked to al-Qaeda are alleged as well.34 Additionally, allegations of mid-1990s plans by Philippine-based radical Islamic groups to blow up 11 U.S. commercial airliners over the Pacific, assassinate Pope John Paul II, bomb U.S. and Israeli Embassies, and assassinate U.S. President William J. Clinton all marked the area as a vector for international terrorism. More recently, the January 2002 arrest of Jemaah Islamiyah militants in Singapore and the Philippines, with ties to al-Qaeda, underscored the existence of continuing direct links and regional ties with international terrorism. The ASG was planning attacks on U.S. and Western Embassies in the region and on the U.S. military.35

Substantial training and other ties to Afghanistan evidently endured in the years since the end of the 1979-89 war. In July 2001, a Filipino senator and former Philippine Armed Forces chief indicated that 50 Moro fighters were being trained in Afghanistan. While it was far from clear to which of the three Moro groups the 50 guerrillas belonged, the revelation underscored the robust dimensions of terrorist links and interaction.36 As the unraveling of the Taliban regime accelerated in mid-November 2001 under the impact of U.S. and Northern Alliance attacks, Moros were reported to be fighting near Kabul with Taliban and al-Qaeda fighters.37 They are evidently sprinkled among the thousands of al-Qaeda prisoners and dead left in the wake of the successful U.S. and allied operations, even as the U.S.-supported Philippine Army fought occasional engagements and sought to close with the ASG elements and rescue hostages on Basilan Island.38

Islamic Insurgency and the Region

As 2001 came to an end, concerns about the ASG were fueled by the prospect of renewed militancy from the MNLF and MILF as they pursued Moro independence. Additionally, the prospect for broadening unrest and uncertainty to other states in the region seemed more likely. In late October 2001, MNLF founder Nur Misauri—his leadership challenged by other MNLF representatives and his position as governor of the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao denounced by Manila's government—quickly indicated his intention to take up arms. According to the government, he met with ASG representatives and with the MILF to gain active allies and orchestrate a general uprising. More than 200 Misuari followers shelled a Philippine Army post on Mindanao with mortars on 19 November, took many dozens of hostages in Zam-boanga City, and in resulting clashes with the army, lost some 52 fighters. Some fighters were reported to be former Moro rebels who had been integrated into the army but mutinied over the Philippine Government's treatment of former governor Misuari.39 Many more MNLF fighters were arrested, and large arms and explosives caches were seized.

While the Philippine Army continued into December to try to pacify Misuari's fighters, Misuari himself fled to Sabah, Malaysia, where it was feared he would use territory and camps there to launch operations against Manila's government. Malaysian authorities detained him on 24 November, albeit in fairly opulent conditions, and the Kuala Lampur Government subsequently cleared him of terror-ist charges. He was, nevertheless, deported to the Philippines where he is imprisoned. Fears that Misuari's armed followers, such as the loyal and elite Mutallah force from his days as governor, might try to free him has heightened military and police attention and intelligence-gathering efforts. Misuari supporters also are believed to be planning terrorist strikes in the Philippines as they watch his extradition and deportation proceedings.40

The MILF—whose meeting with Misuari took place in Bangkok, Thailand, in October—asserts that it is pleased to see rising tensions with the Philippine Government, having opposed earlier peace efforts. At the same time, the ASG pursues its own enigmatic criminal and radical Islamic agendas. In short, Moro resistance groups' interaction is complex, as is the impact that all of this has on other states in the region.41

At a minimum, the perceived Malaysian backing for Moro independence remains a source of tension between Manila and Kuala Lumpur, but there are more serious impacts. The Philippine Moro insurgent movements have increased arms smuggling and alien smuggling in Malaysia and Indonesia. The January 2002 arrest of al-Qaeda-linked militants in Malaysia, who had ties to the Philippines and Indonesia, indicates that the full extent of radical Islamic networks is not yet apparent.42 In addition, the ASG's successes in raising money through kidnapping and extortion are believed to have sparked analogous efforts by pirates and other groups in regional waters.43 Radicalizing Malaysian Muslims and institutionalizing anti-U.S. and anti-Western opposition and hostility remain potentials but are limited to the rhetorical and to demonstrations against U.S. strikes on Afghanistan.44

Indonesia, as the fourth largest state in the world and the largest Muslim country, is particularly concerned about radical Islam and terrorism. More than 85 percent of Indonesia's 210 million people are Muslim; about 5 percent are Christian, and about 1 per-cent is Buddhist and Hindu. While the East Timor experience is said to have reenergized the Philippine Moros in their secessionist efforts, it is recognized that inspiration flows both ways.45 The presence of al-Qaeda cells in Indonesia was suspected and discussed well before their attacks of 11 September 2001 against the United States. Attacks against U.S. interests there sparked U.S. State Department warnings and increased embassy security.46

More recently, Indonesian intelligence chief Lieutenant General Abdullah Hendropriyono charged that al-Qaeda camps and those of other foreign terrorist groups exist on Indonesia's Sulawesi Island. While Hendropriyono said that camps had remained largely inactive since their establishment, he indicated that al-Qaeda representatives, other foreigners, and local militants were fueling Muslim-Christian conflict there.47 A number of groups in Indonesia have extremist agendas, including the Islamic Defenders' Front and the militant Laskar Jihad. A former mujahideen veteran of the 1979-89 Soviet-Afghan war who has sent many local youths to wage war against Christians in the Moluccas and the Central Sulawesi province leads the Laskar Jihad.48 The group reportedly has nearly a dozen commanders with Afghan war experience. While these radical groups deny al-Qaeda ties, their radical activities and continuing involvement in the Sulawesi problems suggest otherwise.

Overall, however, membership in such radical Islamic groups is still relatively small. The extent to which these groups will be able to mobilize new members to undertake regional versions of jihad in today's environment is the issue that concerns regional governments and the United States.49 Recent revelations about al-Qaeda-linked militants arrested in Singapore—well-known for its strict law enforcement and other controls—were particularly unpleasant. Such revelations suggest to specialists and media commentators alike that the potential for al-Qaeda and other radical Islamic groups to gain footholds amidst the disarray of Indonesia is a most serious consideration.50

From the late 13th century to the age of the Internet, Moro goals, identity, and coherence as a people have remained largely intact. Now constituting about 5 percent of the Filipino population, their goal of independence—or at least greater autonomy and a more equitable share of opportunity and national resources—remains a powerful imperative. As one sympathetic Filipino commentator put it, the continuing Moro armed struggle is "founded on an historical perception that Manila's Imperial Government is out on a systematic pattern for the extirpation of Islam in the Philippines."51 Whatever the merits of this perception, enduring economic marginalization and decades of government policies considered to be hostile by many south Philippine Muslims have fueled an active insurgency.

The Philippine Government's military efforts to deal with guerrillas have led to charges of human rights abuses and unwarranted militarization.52 As 2002 began, the Philippine Army asserted that it must substantially increase the size of its forces by 40 battalions to deal with the threat of southern Muslim guerrillas and communist insurgents operating in areas farther north. Together, these Muslim and communist guerrillas are estimated to total about 25,000 fighters.53 At the same time, Muslim insurgents are seeking new recruits, funding, and allies, a cycle that suggests the prospect of increased confrontation in the Philippines and possibly provides a catalyst for broader armed conflict in the region.

The new factor in the Philippines, and in the region, is the introduction of a far more radical form of Islam backed by international adherents. While the ASG may now be both a criminal enterprise and an ideologically motivated insurgent group, the message of Islamic extremism in populations seeing little prospect for material improvement could be especially seductive. Traditional Moro independence groups, militants, and armed insurgents may become radicalized. Regional commentators, including those in Indonesia, continue to echo the fear that "radicals might eventually attract the economically dispossessed."54 Indeed, by late January 2002, there were increasing reports of ties among the ASG, the MNLF, and the MILF. The well-regarded Manila Times cited Philippine military intelligence reports that MNLF and MILF insurgents had "linked up with Abu Sayyaf rebels in Basilan."55 Should this report prove correct and indicate an enduring relationship, it would mean far more serious problems for Philippine military operations.

U.S. policy in the Philippines recognizes two requirements: to support the Philippine Government's military effort to deal with the immediate threat of terrorism and to meet the longer-term problem of endemic poverty and marginalization that feeds instability. U.S. military assistance has thus far been confined to materiel support and deploying Special Forces trainers and other advisers, with the possibility of more active U.S. participation having been raised in government-to-government discussions. The likelihood of strong opposition to a more assertive U.S. combat role may limit options in this regard.


[1].  Military Review, Command & General Staff College; 38 Bearer of the Sword, by Graham J. Turbiville, Jr.;

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