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Abu Sayyaf kidnappings, bombings and other attacks

The Abu Sayyaf (Arabic for "bearer of the sword") was founded in the early 1990s by Abdurrajak Janjalani, a former member of the Moro National Liberation Front who had trained in Afghanistan. The group gained international notoriety in 2000 with the kidnapping of foreigners in Sipadan, Malaysia, and again in 2001 with the Dos Palmas incident. Operating mainly in Basilan and Sulu, the group has claimed responsibility for a number of bombing incidents in recent years. The Abu Sayyaf has also carried out violent attacks against civilians, as seen in the 1995 Ipil Raid. HIGH-PROFILE KIDNAPPINGS November 14, 1993:The Abu Sayyaf Group kidnapped American missionary Charles Watson in Sulu. He was released less than one month later. 1996: Abu Sayyaf abducted American missionary Greg Williams in Cebu. He was tortured and deprived of food and water; he was also forced to watch the beheading of a friend. He escaped after 13 days in captivity. March 20, 2000 (Tumahubong kidnapping): Abu Sayyaf kidnapped several teachers and students from two schools in Tumahubong, Sumisip, Basilan. Among the kidnap victims were Claretian priest Fr. Rhoel Gallardo and three teachers who were found dead on May 3, 2000; their bodies bore signs of torture. April 23, 2000 (Sipadan kidnapping): Using high-powered speedboats, the Abu Sayyaf kidnapped 21 people -- 19 foreigners and two Filipinos -- from a dive resort in Sipadan, Malaysia. The hostages were brought to Sulu. Most of the hostages were released in the following months; the last hostage, Roland Ulla (Filipino), was able to escape on June 6, 2003. July 2000: Television evangelist Wilde Almeda and some of his Jesus Miracle Crusade "prayer warriors" presented themselves at the Abu Sayyaf lair in Jolo, Sulu, to pray over the Sipadan hostages. However, the preachers themselves became captives; they were rescued by the military 3 1/2 months later. August 28, 2000: Abu Sayyaf held American Jeffrey Schilling hostage. Schilling was rescued by the military during a brief encounter with his kidnappers on April 12, 2001, in Luuk, Sulu. May 27, 2001 (Dos Palmas kidnapping): Abu Sayyaf kidnapped 20 foreign and local tourists from the Dos Palmas Beach Resort in Palawan. The hostages, including Americans Guillermo Sobero, Martin Burnham and Gracia Burnham, were brought to Basilan. The kidnapping incident provoked a large scale military operation to rescue the hostages. Among the American captives, only Gracia survived; Sobero was beheaded, while Martin was killed during a rescue attempt. June 2, 2001 (Lamitan Siege): Catching the military by surprise, the Abu Sayyaf entered the town proper of Lamitan, Basilan with their hostages in tow. They occupied the Dr. Jose Torres Memorial Hospital and St. Peter's Church compound. Although surrounded by government troops, the Abu Sayyaf managed to escape from the compound with many of the Dos Palmas hostages and some new ones, including Filipino nurse, Ediborah Yap. The Abu Sayyaf took a few more hostages, mostly plantation workers from Lantawan, Basilan, after the Lamitan siege. Some of the hostages were freed or managed to escape from their captors in subsequent months. Some, including American captive Guillermo Sobero, were beheaded. On June 7, 2002, government troops were able to rescue American hostage Gracia Burnham, but her husband Martin and Filipino nurse Ediborah Yap were killed in the rescue attempt. Some local and foreign journalists covering the high-profile kidnappings were themselves held captive for some time. The Lamitan siege prompted congressional investigations which found "strong circumstantial evidence" of AFP-Abu Sayyaf connivance/collusion. August 20, 2002: Abu Sayyaf abducted six Jehovah's Witnesses and their Muslim guides in Sulu. Two of the kidnapped preachers were later beheaded, their severed heads dumped near a public market in Jolo. Some of the kidnap victims managed to escape; the last remaining victims were rescued by government troops in May 2003. BOMBING April 4, 1991: Two American evangelists were killed when the Abu Sayyaf launched a grenade attack in Zamboanga City. August 1991: The Abu Sayyaf bombed M/V Doulos, a Christian missionary ship-cum-floating bookstore, which was at that time docked at the Zamboanga City port. April 21, 2002: An explosion at the FitMart department store in General Santos City killed 15 people. Abu Sayyaf claimed responsibility for the incident. October 2, 2002: A bomb exploded in front of a karaoke bar near a military arms depot in Zamboanga City. Three were killed, including an American soldier. The government blamed the Abu Sayyaf for the attack. March 4, 2003 (Davao Airport bombing): 21 people were killed when a bomb exploded at the waiting shed fronting the arrival area of Davao International Airport in Davao City, Davao Del Sur. Abu Sayyaf claimed responsibility for the incident. February 27, 2004 (SuperFerry 14): M/V SuperFerry 14 caught fire near Corregidor, Bataan after an explosion occurred onboard. 94 people were killed while 24 remain missing. Abu Sayyaf claimed it bombed the ferry. Criminal charges were filed in October 2004 against six suspects linked to the group after the government established that the Abu Sayyaf were indeed behind the attack. February 14, 2005 (Valentine's Day Bombings): Eight people were killed in separate bombings in General Santos City, Makati and Davao City. Abu Sayyaf claimed responsibility for the incidents. OTHER ATTACKS AGAINST CIVILIANS April 4, 1995 (Ipil raid): Abu Sayyaf members disguised as military men raided the predominantly Christian town of Ipil, Zamboanga del Sur. The heavily-armed men indiscriminately fired at civilians, looted banks and shops, and set several buildings on fire. They took around 30 hostages--mostly women and children--as they withdrew from the town. Fifty-three people were killed in the attack. February 14, 1999: Abu Sayyaf opened fire on a jeep full of Christian catechists from Tumahubong, Basilan who were on their way to an Alay Kapwa seminar in Isabela town. Some of the victims were hacked with bolos. Six were killed in the ambush. Source: GMA News Research