The Justice Department recently lodged its petition against the Al-Qaeda-linked group with a trial court in southern Basilan province — the Abu Sayyaf's birthplace — in the first known government attempt to ban a rebel group under a 2007 anti-terrorism law.
Abu Sayyaf members currently cannot be arrested unless they commit a crime. The petition cited 20 major bombings and atrocities allegedly committed by the Abu Sayyaf, including a 2004 attack that ignited an inferno on a ferry that killed 116 people, and the kidnappings of dozens of mostly European tourists and three Americans in early 2000.
If approved, the measure would criminalize membership in the Abu Sayyaf and allow authorities to freeze financial assets of militants more rapidly and limit their travel. It would serve as a new legal weapon against the group, which has survived years of US-backed offensives, state prosecutor Nestor Lazaro said.
"This will help cripple the group," Lazaro told The Associated Press. The 210 names to be added to the blacklist are identified so far out of an estimated 400-strong membership.
The militants are determined to pursue jihad, or holy war, "in any shape or form ... without regard to violation of laws or even sacrificing innocent lives," according to the 22-page petition, which cited the Abu Sayyaf's charter.
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