Duterte, Najib agree to speed up three-nation pursuit of Abu Sayyaf in Sulu

Defence ministers from Malaysia, the Philippines and Indonesia will work on a standard operating procedures against Abu Sayyaf.

Abu Sayyaf militants release Indonesian sailor kidnapped in Sulu sea
Norwegian national Kjartan Sekkingstad stands next to MNLF leader and other members after he was freed. Reuters

Philippines President Rodrigo Duterte and Malaysian Prime Minister Najib Razak decided to engage the Abu Sayyaf guerillas in Sulu region in a 'hot pursuit'.

The leaders said the issue of security in Sulu, which is described as the "wild, wild east", was a matter of grave concern for Malaysia, Philippines and Indonesia.

Najib said joint naval patrols by Philippines, Indonesian and Malaysian will strengthen the security of the region, which has been in the grip of lawlessness for decades. "All we need to do is to inform the Philippine navy that that we are in hot pursuit and request permission to enter its waters," Najib said after a meeting with Duterte in Kula Lumpur.

Meanwhile, defence ministers from Malaysia, the Philippines and Indonesia will meet on November 22 to work on a standard operating procedures (SOP) for dealing with the Islamist militancy in the Sulu region. The ministerial meeting will be held in Vientiane, Laos.

Philippines Foreign Affairs Secretary Perfecto Yasay said the two sides talked about combative endeavors with respect to secure the sea along the southern part of the Philippines against piracy.

"We have initially talked about what is called in international law as hot pursuit and we will see how far we can go along this line and make sure that we would be able to interdict piracy in this area and other forms of criminality and make sure that these illegal activities are stopped once and for all. But this would really need the, of post cooperation between Indonesia, Malaysia and the Philippines, the minister said, according to the Inquirer.

Who are Abu Sayyaf?

Abu Sayyaf translates into 'Bearer of the Sword'. It is an Islamic militant group founded in the early 1990s by a preacher who returned from the Afghan war.

Abu Sayyaf took shape as a splinter group of the Moro National Liberation Front MNLF).

The group was behind several bombings, hostage taking and kidnap for ransom throughout the 90s. They were behind the Manila bombings in 2005 and the bomb explosion outside the Philippine Congress in 2007 that killed a Congressman and three others.

In 2001 they kidnapped tourists from a resort and murdered three of the hostages later, including an American.

Abu Sayyaf's vision is the establishment of a pan-Islamic super-state in Southeast Asia. Their immediate goal is to set up an Islamic state in the western Mindanao and the Sulu Archipelago.

Abu Sayyaf founder Abdurajak Abubakar Janjalan was killed in a military action in 1998 and his brother who took over the reins of the outfit was killed in 2006. The outfit has been linked to al-Qaeda and Jemaah Islamiah at various times.