I would not be recommending Kudat at the moment due to recent security
Oslo , 20.07.2018
DNK IOC INTELLIGENCE REPORT (INTREP) – ABU SAYYAF GROUP, SULU SEA
(Philippine Intelligence) Abu Sayyaf Group (ASG) is planning to conduct kidnapping activities in / off GULISAN ISLAND, East Sabah targeting foreigners or vessels at sea on any opportune time. As planned, ASG spotters in the area will guide the group in going to the said island during the execution of the kidnapping plan.
DNK IOC Comment
The UN terror-listed Abu Sayyaf Group (ASG) consists of several factions rather than being one cohesive organization. The two main elements have their strongholds at Basilan Island close to Mindanao/Philippines and at Sulu (Jolo) Island in the middle of the Sulu Archipelago.
The Basilan faction has traditionally been more drawn to the Islamic Caliphate idea, whilst the Sulu faction traditionally has been more crime minded. Their main source of income
has for years been money
provided through extortion or ransom after kidnappings. In late 2016 both factions advanced from attacking tourists, locals, small fishing
vessels and tugs to more lucrative merchant vessels.
Primarily the Sulu faction of the ASG has cooperated closely with highly skilled seafarers and attack elements based on the border islands between Philippines
(East Sabah), also referred to as Kidnap-for-Ransom Support Groups (K/R SGs). These elements, also having close family
relations to the ASG, have exploited the previous lack of coordination between the Malaysian Forces and the Armed Forces of the Philippines
(AFP) in these border areas. Traditionally they have kidnapped hostages close to the Malaysian TTW and then quickly extracted them into international and Philippine waters to hand them over to the ASG. The ASG has then kept the hostages at one of the 7300 Sulu islands and demanded ransom.
The ASG has for years been under pressure from the AFP, and post 9-11 the pressure increased with support from primarily the US. The Counter Terrorism (CT) pressure increased further in 2017 after the failed but still powerful attempt by the so-called Islamic State East Asia
(ISEA) to establish a Caliphate at Mindanao (the Marawi siege). Primarily the Basilan faction of the ASG was heavily involved in the siege together with other jihadist groups in Mindanao, including the Maute Group. President Duterte of the Philippines first ordered his troops to eliminate the ASG within March 2018. This was later postponed to by the end of 2018. Also the K/R SGs have come under heavy pressure since the failed attempt in 2013 by the so-called «Royal Security
Forces of the Sultanate of Sulu and North Borneo“ to claim territory in East Sabah by force. The East Sabah Security Command (ESSCOM) was later established as consequence to this. Cooperation between the AFP and ESSCOM has significantly increased since 2017. The last attempted attack by ASG towards a merchant vessel was the failed attack against the cargo vessel
DNK IOC Assessment
All ASG factions are HIGHLY LIKELY in a desperate need to regain financial resources after a year without substantial ransom income
, adding to considerable losses on the Sulu islands amid Duterte’s CT operations in the Southern Philippines. Finances is needed to maintain their lifestyle and operations, but also to ensure continued support from locals and sanctuary on the islands.
T he tourist-season represents a target rich environment
on the resorts in and off East Sabah, such as the Turtle Islands off Sandakan (including the Gulisan Island). Tourists are easy to snatch and the high density of primarily wealthy Chinese tourists in this area also represents a good prospect of income through ransom. However, the ESSCOM security measures on the resorts are substantial and could therefore motivate the ASG and affiliated K/R SGs to rather search for targets outside Malaysian territory, notably fishing
vessels or tugs at sea. These targets could also be defined as easy targets, but not being very lucrative in terms of ransom. The ASG factions with affiliated K&R SGs will therefore HIGHLY LIKELY continue to prefer merchant shipping
sailing through the Basilan Strait or the Sibutu Channel as their desired primary targets at sea. The HALIPA K&R SG is the K&R SG that usually operates in the waters off Sandakan (North-Eastern parts
of East Sabah). This group’s stronghold is on Boan Island (some 200 km North of Gulisan Island). Attacks on merchant vessels conducted by this group first occurred on 19 February 2017, when the Bulk Carrier GIANG HAI was attacked. The incident resulted in seven crew being kidnapped, followed by the failed attack against the Cargo Vessel PHU AN 268 on 05 March 2017. The attack on PHU AN 268 occurred close to Gulisan Island, whilst the attack on GIANG HAI happened further out at sea. Additionally, the HALIPA K&R SG has been involved in at least one attack against fishing vessels in the area close to Gulisan Island between 2016-2018. Even though the HALIPA K&R SG’s main contact to the Sulu-based ASG, Moammar Askalia aka Commander Abu Rami, was killed in April 2017, the connection between the group and the Sulu based ASG Commander Radullon Sahiron is HIGHLY LIKELY still valid. The HALIPA K&R SG has also suffered less than other K&R SGs in the ongoing CT Operations in East Sabah. The group has previously shown ability to attack merchant vessels and is assessed as HIGHLY LIKELY still having this capability. Any advanced K/R operation conducted at sea from Sandakan and Northbound is LIKELY conducted by this specific K&R SG.
The small Gulisan Island consists of sand and one cabin
picture of Gulisan Island). The island is HIGHLY UNLIKELY to be used as a holding area for the hostages to be taken. The island provides no sufficient cover for this purpose.
However, the island is very suitable as a Forward Operating Base (FOB) for the attack force. The island is located in close vicinity for an attack either towards tourists visiting some of the other Turtle Islands or fishing vessels or merchant vessels passing .