The Abu Sayyaf Group: A Terrorist Criminal Enterprise

By Richard T. Oakley

This paper explores a new model - the terrorist criminal enterprise - for assessing the convergence of terrorism and organized crime in illicit networks, and examines some of the policy implications of utilizing that model to address this phenomenon. Since 2001, several other models have promulgated theories on this observed trend. Some of the prevailing theories are discussed alongside the terrorist criminal enterprise model. The paper analyzes the case of the Abu Sayyaf Group (ASG) in the Philippines, a resilient security threat in Southeast Asia, in terms of this new model. Security professionals familiar with the group have long-debated whether the ASG is a terrorist organization or an organized group of bandits. To be sure, its history of interwoven political and profit-motivated exploits makes this a difficult question. However, as the terrorist criminal enterprise model illuminates, this is a false dichotomy and leads to a debilitating bifurcation in security efforts. The ASG is an exemplar of this new model, it is unique in its own right, but it is hardly alone. Indeed, terrorist criminal enterprises like the ASG should be considered part of the new normal. Therefore, the implications of dealing with the ASG as such have broader applicability to security policy.

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