Abu Sayyaf Group threatens to kill German hostages


The Abu Sayyaf Group (ASG), a jihadist organization based in the Philippines that previously was tied to al Qaeda and is now loyal to the Islamic State, has released a statement in which it threatened to kill a German hostage unless Germany backs out of the coalition with the United States. In a message released on Twitter in Arabic and Filipino, ASG said it has two demands for Germany, stipulating 15 days to meet these demands or the hostages will be executed.

The two German hostages have been identified as Stefan Okonek and Henrike Dielen. Both were captured in waters off the coast of Malaysia in May.

The demands set forth by ASG are as follows, according to a translation provided by SITE Intelligence Group:

“The first of our demands is to pay us 250 million pesos in return for releasing both of them (in addition to the second demand). The second: The participation with support from Germany to America must stop, in the killing of our Muslims brothers in Iraq and Sham [Syria] in general, and the mujahideen of the Islamic State in particular.”

ASG has been notorious for kidnappings in the Philippines and surrounding areas. In the same article that identifies the two German nationals, it goes on to say that “two Germans were made to join European birdwatchers Elwold Horn and Lorenzo Vinciguerra. The two birdwatchers were abducted by the bandit group in Panglima Sugala, Tawi-Tawi on January 31, 2012.”

Additionally, in April 2000, ASG kidnapped 19 people in Malaysia before taking them back to their base in Sulu, Philippines. In 2001, the Philippines rescued an American hostage taken by ASG after the group threatened to kill him. A month later, ASG kidnapped 20 individuals from a resort on the Filipino island of Palawan. It is also thought that ASG has kidnapped 20 reporters since the year 2000.

ASG has also been active in bombings, the worst of which occurred in 2004 and killed 116 people off the coast of Manila.

In the past, the ASG has had ties to al Qaeda. In June, a master ASG bomb maker who was thought to have been killed in a drone strike in North Waziristan, Pakistan, turned up in the Philippines. The operative, Abdul Basit Usman, is wanted by the United States for his involvement in multiple bombings in the Philippines and also has ties to Jemaah Islamiyah, an al Qaeda-linked group in Southeast Asia.

ASG was funded and financed by Mohammed Jamal Khalifa, one of Osama bin Laden’s brother-in-laws, according to Khaddafy Janjalani, the leader of Abu Sayyaf before he was killed in 2006. Khalifa, an al Qaeda financier and facilitator, was killed by US special operations forces in Madagascar in 2006.

ASG also has ties to Jemaah Islamiyah in Malaysia. Jemaah Islamiyah is an Islamist terrorist group that seeks to establish a pan-Islamic state across Southeast Asia. The organization is most active in Indonesia and the Philippines, but also conducts operations in Thailand, Singapore, and Malaysia. It is al Qaeda’s regional affiliate in Southeast Asia and its operatives have been responsible for devastating attacks in the region, including the 2002 and 2005 Bali bombings, the 2004 suicide car bombing outside the Australian Embassy in Jakarta, the August 2003 car bombing of the JW Marriott hotel in Jakarta, and a series of bombings in Manila.

But ASG has distanced itself from al Qaeda when in July, Isnilon Hapilon, a top leader in the group, swore allegiance to Abu Bakr al Baghdadi, the emir of the Islamic State.

“We pledge bayah to Caliph Sheikh Abu Bakr al Baghdadi Ibrahim Awwad al Qurashi al Husseini for loyalty and obedience in adversity and comfort,” Hapilon said in a short videotape. Other members of ASG have also pledged allegiance to al Baghdadi and the Islamic State.

Caleb Weiss is an editor of FDD's Long War Journal and a senior analyst at the Bridgeway Foundation, where he focuses on the spread of the Islamic State in Central Africa.

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