Friday, June 3, 2016

US designates Philippines Abu Sayyaf as terror groups anew

                     Abu Sayyaf the most violent terrorist group operating in the Philippines

MANILA, Philippines — The Communist Party of the Philippines's armed wing, the New People's Army, as well as the Abu Sayyaf group return to the United States's list of foreign terrorist organizations, according to a report released Friday.

The US Department of State's Country Reports on Terrorism 2015, released usually every June, named 58 foreign militant organizations linked to terror activities the past year. These groups are also seen to be threats to the security of US nationals, defense, foreign relations and economy.

First put on the list by the State department in 2002, the CPP-NPA was seen to be behind at least four incidents that led to the deaths of Philippine security personnel the past year. The group was also said to be behind an attack on a Dole plantation in Bukidnon in January last year, burning down the facility and chopped down more than 700 banana trees. Dole is a multinational food company that started in Hawaii. "Over the past few years, CPP-NPA has continued to carry out killings, raids, kidnappings, acts of extortion, and other forms of violence primarily directed against security forces," the report stated.

The Armed Forces of the Philippines also attributes to the communist guerillas the deaths of 383 people, including 158 civilians, in encounters with government forces, the report noted. The US State department said the CPP-NPA has had a "long history of attacking US interests in the Philippines," citing four separate operations in Angeles City that killed three American soldiers. Newly elected President Rodrigo Duterte has expressed interest in reviving long-stalled peace talks with the CPP, even offering them positions in his Cabinet. The left-leaning organization said Thursday, however, that it will demand an end to US military presence in the country if it were to forge a pact with the government.

The Philippines government estimates CPP-NPA membership to be about 4,000. The State department, meanwhile, also said that the CPP-NPA raises funds through extortion and theft. 'Most violent' in the Philippines The State department's report, similarly tagging the Mindanao-based Abu Sayyaf as terrorists, dubbed it the "most violent terrorist group operating in the Philippines." "[The Abu Sayyaf] claims to promote an independent Islamic state in western Mindanao and the Sulu archipelago," the report said. Remaining active since it was first placed on the list in 1997, the Abu Sayyaf was found to be behind road ambush incidents, abduction of locals and foreigners, extortion, public beheadings and assassinations.

In September 2015, the Abu Sayyaf was blamed for the armed abduction of two Canadians, a Norwegian, and a Filipino woman from the Holiday Oceanview Samal Resort on Samal Island. Earlier this year, the group released a video showing its beheading of Canadian national John Ridsdel, earning the condemnation of Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau. It also beheaded a Malaysian hostage in November last year after demands for ransom were not met.

The report said the Abu Sayyaf poses a continuous threat to US interests, citing an oath of allegiance made by its leader, FBI-wanted terrorist Isnilon Hapilon, to Islamic State leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi.

Besides the CPP-NPA and the Abu Sayyaf, another terror organization identified to be partly operating in the Philippines is the Jemaah Islamiyah, tagged in an attempt to carry out attacks during the visit of Pope Francis to Manila and Tacloban in January 2015. The group is also found to operate in Indonesia and Malaysia.

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