There are contradictory reports as to the whereabouts of Abu Sayyaf leader Khadaffy Janjalani. At the end of November Xinhua news agency ran a report that Janjalani had managed to slip the military dragnet in the central Mindanao islands where the government is negotiating a ceasefire with the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF), at the same time as putting pressure on the Abu Sayyaf movement. On November 27 government troops killed another leader of Abu Sayyaf, Munap Manialah, in a shootout at Isabela city in southern Basilan island. But Janjalani, who has a $5 million reward on his head, is believed to have escaped along with 20 of his men to the Mardanas and Mamanok Islands in Malaysia.
However, on December 6, according to the Philippine Daily Enquirer, the Armed Forces Chief of Staff, Lieutenant General Efren Abu, insisted that Janjalani was hiding out in MILF territory. Abu stressed that Janjalani’s presence there was not by invitation — since the MILF have allowed the military to conduct air raids in its territories to flush out the Abu Sayyaf leader — but simply due to the fact that the Philippine military’s presence there is still weak.
If Janjalani has decamped from the field, it may well spell neutralization of the band in the Philippines since he is held to be the only one holding the Abu Sayyaf group together. But the transference of the group will not necessarily be welcome to Malaysia, which has recently engaged in talks on sharing security information with Thailand and Indonesia, under the cloud of ongoing violence in Thailand’s southern provinces. Thailand’s foreign minister expressed concerns about ‘the possibility of extremist groups in the region connecting together’, yet cooperation between these countries is still in its infancy, with deeper integration hindered by ASEAN’s core principle of non-interference in the internal affairs of neighbors.