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Abu Sayyaf Group (ASG) Narrative


Abu Sayyaf Group (ASG)

Last Update

February 2015

Aliases

Al-Harakat Al-Islamiya; Bearer of the Sword

History

Abu Sayyaf Group (ASG), although one of the smaller insurgent groups in the Philippines, is the most radical and violent of the separatist groups in the country.[1] ASG was founded by Abdurajak Abubakar Janjalani in 1991 on the island of Basilan as a splinter group from the Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF).[2] ASG goals predominantly focus on creating an independent, autonomous Islamic state in the southern Philippines.[3] From ASG’s inception through the mid-1990s, the group was primarily supported through al-Qa’ida fiscal and military support.[4]

ASG began its operations by implementing a string of bombs against Christians in the southern Philippines in 1991.[5] Until its loss of funding from al-Qa’ida in the mid-1990s, ASG attacks mainly consisted of bombings, ambushes, and executions.[6] In April and July 2000, ASG kidnapped 24 foreigners in the Philippines and released these hostages for ransoms that ranged from 10 to 25 million dollars.[7] Post-2003, kidnapping for ransom was deemphasized while efforts in bombing and other violent means were increased.[8] In late 2003, leader Khadaffy Janjalani established an alliance with Jemaah Islamiah (JI).[9]

The Armed Forces of the Philippines' (AFP) campaign against ASG in the 2000s significantly diminished that group's presence in the southern Philippines.[10] ASG had 1,000 members in 2000 but by 2013 had dropped to an estimated 400.[11] Since the death of Khadaffy Janjalani in 2006 and other key leaders in operation Oplan Ultimatium, ASG has struggled with leadership and structural issues in its efforts for a separate Islamic state.[12] No verified successor has been named, and without a central leader, ASG has once again resorted to initiating kidnappings for ransom in order to support the group.[13] Although ASG’s strength has dwindled, its violence continues, and therefore it remains an issue of concern for the Philippine Government.[14]

Home base

Philippines (Southern region, predominantly in the Sulu Archipelago)

Founding year

1991[15]

Ideology

Separatist-Moro; Religious-Islamist-Salafist

Specific goals

  • To unite the Muslim provinces in the Philippines and establish a separate Islamic state under Sharia law.[16]
  • Eradicate all non-Muslims from the Sulu archipelago and Mindanao regions.[17]

Political Activity

None.

Financing

  • External support:
    • Until the mid-1990s, ASG relied upon al-Qa’ida for fiscal support in training, insurgent operations, and arms provisions.[18]
    • Muhammad Jamal Khalifa, Osama Bin Laden’s brother-in-law, channeled money to ASG, through the International Islamic Relief Organization and other charitable groups that were fronts for supporting terrorist activities.[19] Fellow al-Qa’ida operative Ramzi Yousef, trained ASG cadres.[20]
    • ASG lost al-Qa’ida funding following the barring of Khalifa from the Philippines in 1995 and the arrest of Yousef in Pakistan. [21]
  • Criminality:
    • From 2000 to 2003, ASG utilized kidnap-for-ransom techniques to raise most of its necessary funds of operation.[22]
    • From 2003 to 2007, kidnap-for-ransom techniques took a less prominent role.
    • Kidnap-for-ransom activities rejuvenated after the death of key ASG leaders in 2006 to 2007.
    • In 2008, ASG conducted more than 55 kidnappings for ransom.[23]
  • Trafficking/smuggling:
    • Marijuana cultivation, sales and trafficking. [24]

Leadership and structure over time

  • ASG’s structure is reputed to be that of a collection of loose cells, governed by an executive body called the Minsupala Islamic Theocratic State Shadow government.[25]
  • 1991-1998: Abdurajak Abubakar Janjalani.[26]
  • 1998-2003: Khadaffy Janjalani led the Basilan faction, and Galib Andang led the faction on the island of Sulu.[27]
  • 2003-2006: Khadaffy Janjalani consolidates control after death of Andang.[28]
  • Post-2006: Radullah Sahiron.[29]

Strength over time

Allies and suspected allies

  • Al-Qa’ida (ally):
    • From ASG’s inception and until the mid-1990s, al-Qa’ida was a primary supporter of ASG, both financially and materially.[37]
    • Al-Qa’ida members, Muhammad Jamal Khalifa and Ramzi Yousef, were sent to assist ASG in raising money, training cadres, and bomb-making methods.[38]
    • ASG’s relationship with al-Qa’ida disintegrated following the death of Janjalani and Khalifa’s dismissal from the Philippines due to his participation in Ramzi Yousef’s Bojinka Plot in 1995 that aimed to destroy several airliners.[39]
  • Jemaah Islamiah (JI) (ally):
    • In late 2003, Khadaffy established an alliance with Jemaah Islamiah (JI).[40]
    • Together, these groups plotted multiple bombing incidences.[41]
    • JI leaders Dulmatin and Umar Patek taught ASG militants how to fabricate and use explosives and provided training in military tactics. [42]
  • Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) (ally):
    • There is evidence that MILF may have provided assistance and collaborated with ASG in the 2000s. [43]
  • Rajah Solaiman Movement (RSM) (ally):
    • RSM provides recruits and financing and other logistical support to ASG. [44]
    • Some key figures are members of both groups; for example, Hilarion Del Rosario Santos III was the leader of RSM while also being the media bureau chief for ASG at the time of his arrest in 2005. [45]
    • RSM and ASG operatives carried out joint operations. [46]

Rivals and Enemies

  • Philippine Government
  • As a separatist movement, ASG frequently targets the Philippine government (e.g., police, military); it is the second-most commonly target type (after private individuals and property), averaging more than 1-in-4 attacks from 1998-2013.[47]

Counterterrorism efforts against the organization

  • Domestic Military:
    • As part of the U.S.-backed Operation Enduring Freedom, President Arroyo sent 4,500 AFP troops to the southern Philippines.[48]
    • During OEF, the AFP killed major leaders, Galib Andang and Abu Sabaya.[49]
    • The AFP furthered these efforts in August 2006, under the campaign Oplan Ultimatum.[50] Oplan Ultimatum resulted in the killing of ASG members and major leaders such as Khaddaffy and Abu Sulaiman.[51]
  • International Military:
    • U.S. President George W. Bush and Philippine President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo agreed upon the deployment of U.S. troops to the southern Philippines in order to fight the growth of ASG in this region.[52]
    • U.S. counterterror efforts are specifically limited to training and advising the Philippine army since the Filipino constitution officially prohibits foreign troops from partaking in actual combat.[53]
    • Under Operation Enduring Freedom (OEF), the U.S. sent out 1,650 personnel and 150 special operations to the Southern Philippines. [54]
    • Since 2001, approximately $260 million form the U.S. has been given to the Philippines for counterterror efforts.[55]
  • Through the counterterror campaign led by AFP forces and assisted by U.S. troops, ASG has been greatly weakened both in structure and leadership.

United States Government Designations:

  • Foreign Terrorist Organization (FTO), October 8, 1997.[56]

Other Governments’ Designations:

  • Australia (November 2002) Listed Terrorist Organization[57]
  • Canada (February  2003) Listed Terrorist Entity[58]
  • United Arab Emirates (2014) Listed Terrorist Organization[59]
  • United Kingdom (March 2001) Proscribed International Terrorist Group[60]
  • United Nations (October 2001) Entities and other Groups and Undertakings Associated with Al Qaida[61]
  • United Nations (December 2005) Radulan Sahiron, Individuals Associated with Al-Qaida[62]
 

[1] BBC. 2012. “Guide to the Philippines Conflict.” BBC News Asia. October 8. http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-asia-17038024.

[2] Niksch, Larry A. 2007. Abu Sayyaf: Target of Philippine-US Anti-Terrorism Cooperation. CRS Report for Congress RL31265. Washington, DC: Congressional Research Service. http://fas.org/sgp/crs/terror/RL31265.pdf.

[3] Fellman, Zack. 2011. Abu Sayyaf Group. Case Study 5. Homeland Security & Counterterrorism Program: Transnational Threats Project. Washington, DC: Center for Strategic and International Studies. http://csis.org/files/publication/111128_Fellman_ASG_AQAMCaseStudy5.pdf.

[4] Bhattacharji, Peetri. 2009. “Terrorism Havens: Philippines.” Council on Foreign Relations. http://www.cfr.org/philippines/terrorism-havens-philippines/p9365

[5] Fellman, Zack. 2011. Abu Sayyaf Group. Case Study 5. Homeland Security & Counterterrorism Program: Transnational Threats Project. Washington, DC: Center for Strategic and International Studies. http://csis.org/files/publication/111128_Fellman_ASG_AQAMCaseStudy5.pdf.

[6] CFR. 2009. “Abu Sayyaf Group (Philippines, Islamist Separatists).” Council on Foreign Relations. May 27. http://www.cfr.org/philippines/abu-sayyaf-group-philippines-islamist-separatists/p9235; Niksch, Larry A. 2007. Abu Sayyaf: Target of Philippine-US Anti-Terrorism Cooperation. CRS Report for Congress RL31265. Washington, DC: Congressional Research Service. http://fas.org/sgp/crs/terror/RL31265.pdf; Abuza, Zachary. 2010. “The Philippines Chips Away at the Abu Sayyaf Group’s Strength.” CTC Sentinel, April. https://www.ctc.usma.edu/v2/wp-content/uploads/2010/08/CTCSentinel-Vol3Iss4-art5.pdf.

[7] Niksch, Larry A. 2007. Abu Sayyaf: Target of Philippine-US Anti-Terrorism Cooperation. CRS Report for Congress RL31265. Washington, DC: Congressional Research Service. http://fas.org/sgp/crs/terror/RL31265.pdf.

[8] Niksch, Larry A. 2007. Abu Sayyaf: Target of Philippine-US Anti-Terrorism Cooperation. CRS Report for Congress RL31265. Washington, DC: Congressional Research Service. http://fas.org/sgp/crs/terror/RL31265.pdf.

[9] Vaughn, Bruce, Emma Chanlett-Avery, Ben Dolven, Mark E Manyin, Michael F Martin, and Larry A Niksch. 2009. Terrorism in Southeast Asia. CRS Report for Congress 7-5700. Washington, DC: Congressional Research Service. http://www.fas.org/sgp/crs/terror/RL34194.pdf.

[10] Fellman, Zack. 2011. Abu Sayyaf Group. Case Study 5. Homeland Security & Counterterrorism Program: Transnational Threats Project. Washington, DC: Center for Strategic and International Studies. http://csis.org/files/publication/111128_Fellman_ASG_AQAMCaseStudy5.pdf.

[11] US Department of State. 2014. Country Reports on Terrorism 2013. Country Reports on Terrorism. Washington, DC: US Department of State. http://www.state.gov/documents/organization/225886.pdf.

[12] Banlaoi, Rommel C. 2010. “The Sources of the Abu Sayyaf’s Resilience in the Southern Philippines.” CTC Sentinel, May 3. https://www.ctc.usma.edu/posts/the-sources-of-the-abu-sayyaf%E2%80%99s-resilience-in-the-southern-philippines.

[13] Fellman, Zack. 2011. Abu Sayyaf Group. Case Study 5. Homeland Security & Counterterrorism Program: Transnational Threats Project. Washington, DC: Center for Strategic and International Studies. http://csis.org/files/publication/111128_Fellman_ASG_AQAMCaseStudy5.pdf.

[14] Dalpino, Catharin. 2012. “US-Southeast Asia Relations: Conflict in the East; Opportunity in the West.” Comparative Connections, May, 11. http://csis.org/files/publication/1201qus_seasia.pdf.

[15] Helfstein, Scott. 2009. Radical Islamic Ideology in Southeast Asia. Southeast Asia Report. West Point, NY: Combating Terrorism Center. https://www.ctc.usma.edu/v2/wp-content/uploads/2010/08/Southeast-Asia-Report.pdf

[16] Helfstein, Scott. 2009. Radical Islamic Ideology in Southeast Asia. Southeast Asia Report. West Point, NY: Combating Terrorism Center. https://www.ctc.usma.edu/v2/wp-content/uploads/2010/08/Southeast-Asia-Report.pdf.

[17] Helfstein, Scott. 2009. Radical Islamic Ideology in Southeast Asia. Southeast Asia Report. West Point, NY: Combating Terrorism Center. https://www.ctc.usma.edu/v2/wp-content/uploads/2010/08/Southeast-Asia-Report.pdf.

[18] Abuza, Zachary. 2010. “The Philippines Chips Away at the Abu Sayyaf Group’s Strength.” CTC Sentinel, April. https://www.ctc.usma.edu/v2/wp-content/uploads/2010/08/CTCSentinel-Vol3Iss4-art5.pdf.

[19] Fellman, Zack. 2011. Abu Sayyaf Group. Case Study 5. Homeland Security & Counterterrorism Program: Transnational Threats Project. Washington, DC: Center for Strategic and International Studies. http://csis.org/files/publication/111128_Fellman_ASG_AQAMCaseStudy5.pdf.

[20] Fellman, Zack. 2011. Abu Sayyaf Group. Case Study 5. Homeland Security & Counterterrorism Program: Transnational Threats Project. Washington, DC: Center for Strategic and International Studies. http://csis.org/files/publication/111128_Fellman_ASG_AQAMCaseStudy5.pdf.

[21] CFR. 2009. “Abu Sayyaf Group (Philippines, Islamist Separatists).” Council on Foreign Relations. May 27. http://www.cfr.org/philippines/abu-sayyaf-group-philippines-islamist-separatists/p9235.

[22] Abuza, Zachary. 2010. “The Philippines Chips Away at the Abu Sayyaf Group’s Strength.” CTC Sentinel, April. https://www.ctc.usma.edu/v2/wp-content/uploads/2010/08/CTCSentinel-Vol3Iss4-art5.pdf.

[23] Abuza, Zachary. 2010. “The Philippines Chips Away at the Abu Sayyaf Group’s Strength.” CTC Sentinel, April. https://www.ctc.usma.edu/v2/wp-content/uploads/2010/08/CTCSentinel-Vol3Iss4-art5.pdf.

[24] Berry, LeVerle, Gleen E. Curtis, Rex A. Hudson, Nina A. Kollars, The Library of Congress: A Global Overview of Narcotics-Funded Terrorists and Other Extremist Groups, May 2002, http://www.loc.gov/rr/frd/pdf-files/NarcsFundedTerrs_Extrems.pdf 

[25] Berry, LeVerle, Gleen E. Curtis, Rex A. Hudson, Nina A. Kollars, The Library of Congress: A Global Overview of Narcotics-Funded Terrorists and Other Extremist Groups, May 2002, http://www.loc.gov/rr/frd/pdf-files/NarcsFundedTerrs_Extrems.pdf

[26] US Department of State. 2011. Country Reports on Terrorism 2010. Country Reports on Terrorism. Washington, DC: US Department of State. http://www.state.gov/documents/organization/170479.pdf.

[27] Fellman, Zack. 2011. Abu Sayyaf Group. Case Study 5. Homeland Security & Counterterrorism Program: Transnational Threats Project. Washington, DC: Center for Strategic and International Studies. http://csis.org/files/publication/111128_Fellman_ASG_AQAMCaseStudy5.pdf.

[28] Abuza, Zachary. 2010. “The Philippines Chips Away at the Abu Sayyaf Group’s Strength.” CTC Sentinel, April. https://www.ctc.usma.edu/v2/wp-content/uploads/2010/08/CTCSentinel-Vol3Iss4-art5.pdf;

Fellman, Zack. 2011. Abu Sayyaf Group. Case Study 5. Homeland Security & Counterterrorism Program: Transnational Threats Project. Washington, DC: Center for Strategic and International Studies. http://csis.org/files/publication/111128_Fellman_ASG_AQAMCaseStudy5.pdf.

[29] FBI. 2012. “Raddulan Sahiron.” Federal Bureau of Investigation. November 14. http://www.fbi.gov/wanted/wanted_terrorists/raddulan-sahiron.

[30] Niksch, Larry A. 2007. Abu Sayyaf: Target of Philippine-US Anti-Terrorism Cooperation. CRS Report for Congress RL31265. Washington, DC: Congressional Research Service. http://fas.org/sgp/crs/terror/RL31265.pdf.

[31] The Military Balance. 1998. “East Asia and Australasia.” In The Military Balance 1998, 1:165–201. The Military Balance. http://dx.doi.org/10.1080/04597222.2013.757005.

[32] The Military Balance. 2000. “East Asia and Australasia.” In The Military Balance 2000, 1:178–218. The Military Balance. http://dx.doi.org/10.1080/04597222.2013.757005; Vaughn, Bruce, Emma Chanlett-Avery, Ben Dolven, Mark E Manyin, Michael F Martin, and Larry A Niksch. 2009. Terrorism in Southeast Asia. CRS Report for Congress 7-5700. Washington, DC: Congressional Research Service. http://www.fas.org/sgp/crs/terror/RL34194.pdf.

[33] US Department of State. 2003. Country Reports on Terrorism 2002. Country Reports on Terrorism. Washington, DC: US Department of State. http://www.state.gov/documents/organization/20177.pdf.

[34] Vaughn, Bruce, Emma Chanlett-Avery, Ben Dolven, Mark E Manyin, Michael F Martin, and Larry A Niksch. 2009. Terrorism in Southeast Asia. CRS Report for Congress 7-5700. Washington, DC: Congressional Research Service. http://www.fas.org/sgp/crs/terror/RL34194.pdf.

[35] US Department of State. 2011. Country Reports on Terrorism 2010. Country Reports on Terrorism. Washington, DC: US Department of State. http://www.state.gov/documents/organization/170479.pdf.

[36] US Department of State. 2014. Country Reports on Terrorism 2013. Country Reports on Terrorism. Washington, DC: US Department of State. http://www.state.gov/documents/organization/225886.pdf.

[37] Helfstein, Scott. 2009. Radical Islamic Ideology in Southeast Asia. Southeast Asia Report. West Point, NY: Combating Terrorism Center. https://www.ctc.usma.edu/v2/wp-content/uploads/2010/08/Southeast-Asia-Report.pdf.

[38] Fellman, Zack. 2011. Abu Sayyaf Group. Case Study 5. Homeland Security & Counterterrorism Program: Transnational Threats Project. Washington, DC: Center for Strategic and International Studies. http://csis.org/files/publication/111128_Fellman_ASG_AQAMCaseStudy5.pdf.

[39] Abuza, Zachary. 2010. “The Philippines Chips Away at the Abu Sayyaf Group’s Strength.” CTC Sentinel, April. https://www.ctc.usma.edu/v2/wp-content/uploads/2010/08/CTCSentinel-Vol3Iss4-art5.pdf.

[40] Vaughn, Bruce, Emma Chanlett-Avery, Ben Dolven, Mark E Manyin, Michael F Martin, and Larry A Niksch. 2009. Terrorism in Southeast Asia. CRS Report for Congress 7-5700. Washington, DC: Congressional Research Service. http://www.fas.org/sgp/crs/terror/RL34194.pdf.

[41] Abuza, Zachary. 2010. “The Philippines Chips Away at the Abu Sayyaf Group’s Strength.” CTC Sentinel, April. https://www.ctc.usma.edu/v2/wp-content/uploads/2010/08/CTCSentinel-Vol3Iss4-art5.pdf.

[42] Banlaoi, Rommel C. 2010. “The Sources of the Abu Sayyaf’s Resilience in the Southern Philippines.” CTC Sentinel, May 3. https://www.ctc.usma.edu/posts/the-sources-of-the-abu-sayyaf%E2%80%99s-resilience-in-the-southern-philippines; Vaughn, Bruce, Emma Chanlett-Avery, Ben Dolven, Mark E Manyin, Michael F Martin, and Larry A Niksch. 2009. Terrorism in Southeast Asia. CRS Report for Congress 7-5700. Washington, DC: Congressional Research Service. http://www.fas.org/sgp/crs/terror/RL34194.pdf.

[43] Vaughn, Bruce, Emma Chanlett-Avery, Ben Dolven, Mark E Manyin, Michael F Martin, and Larry A Niksch. 2009. Terrorism in Southeast Asia. CRS Report for Congress 7-5700. Washington, DC: Congressional Research Service. http://www.fas.org/sgp/crs/terror/RL34194.pdf.

[44] United Nations. 2009. “QE.R.128.08. Rajah Solaiman Movement.” May 7. http://www.un.org/sc/committees/1267/NSQE12808E.shtml.

[45] United Nations. 2009. “QE.R.128.08. Rajah Solaiman Movement.” May 7. http://www.un.org/sc/committees/1267/NSQE12808E.shtml.

[46] United Nations. 2009. “QE.R.128.08. Rajah Solaiman Movement.” May 7. http://www.un.org/sc/committees/1267/NSQE12808E.shtml.

[47] National Consortium for the Study of Terrorism and Responses to Terrorism (START). 2013. “Global Terrorism Database [Data File].” http://www.start.umd.edu/gtd/.

[48] Fellman, Zack. 2011. Abu Sayyaf Group. Case Study 5. Homeland Security & Counterterrorism Program: Transnational Threats Project. Washington, DC: Center for Strategic and International Studies. http://csis.org/files/publication/111128_Fellman_ASG_AQAMCaseStudy5.pdf.

[49] Fellman, Zack. 2011. Abu Sayyaf Group. Case Study 5. Homeland Security & Counterterrorism Program: Transnational Threats Project. Washington, DC: Center for Strategic and International Studies. http://csis.org/files/publication/111128_Fellman_ASG_AQAMCaseStudy5.pdf.

[50] Fellman, Zack. 2011. Abu Sayyaf Group. Case Study 5. Homeland Security & Counterterrorism Program: Transnational Threats Project. Washington, DC: Center for Strategic and International Studies. http://csis.org/files/publication/111128_Fellman_ASG_AQAMCaseStudy5.pdf.

[51] Banlaoi, Rommel C. 2010. “The Sources of the Abu Sayyaf’s Resilience in the Southern Philippines.” CTC Sentinel, May 3. https://www.ctc.usma.edu/posts/the-sources-of-the-abu-sayyaf%E2%80%99s-resilience-in-the-southern-philippines.

[52] Vaughn, Bruce, Emma Chanlett-Avery, Ben Dolven, Mark E Manyin, Michael F Martin, and Larry A Niksch. 2009. Terrorism in Southeast Asia. CRS Report for Congress 7-5700. Washington, DC: Congressional Research Service. http://www.fas.org/sgp/crs/terror/RL34194.pdf.

[53] BBC. 2012. “Guide to the Philippines Conflict.” BBC News Asia. October 8. http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-asia-17038024.

[54] Niksch, Larry A. 2007. Abu Sayyaf: Target of Philippine-US Anti-Terrorism Cooperation. CRS Report for Congress RL31265. Washington, DC: Congressional Research Service. http://fas.org/sgp/crs/terror/RL31265.pdf.

[55] Vaughn, Bruce, Emma Chanlett-Avery, Ben Dolven, Mark E Manyin, Michael F Martin, and Larry A Niksch. 2009. Terrorism in Southeast Asia. CRS Report for Congress 7-5700. Washington, DC: Congressional Research Service. http://www.fas.org/sgp/crs/terror/RL34194.pdf.

[56] US Department of State. 2009. “Foreign Terrorist Organizations.” Other Release. US Department of State. May 8. http://www.state.gov/j/ct/rls/other/des/123085.htm.

[57] Australian Government. 2013. “Listed Terrorist Organisations.” Australian National Security. September 13. http://www.nationalsecurity.gov.au/Listedterroristorganisations/Pages/default.aspx.

[58] Public Safety Canada. 2014. “Currently Listed Entities.” Listed Terrorist Entities. March 4. http://www.publicsafety.gc.ca/cnt/ntnl-scrt/cntr-trrrsm/lstd-ntts/crrnt-lstd-ntts-eng.aspx.

[59] Gulf News. 2014. “UAE Publishes List of Terrorist Organisations.” Online Newspaper. Gulf News Government. November 15. http://gulfnews.com/news/uae/government/uae-publishes-list-of-terrorist-organisations-1.1412895.

[60] Home Office, and James Brokenshire. 2013. Proscribed Terror Groups or Organisations. London: UK Home Office. https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/proscribed-terror-groups-or-organisations--2.

[61] UN Security Council. 2015. “The List Established and Maintained by the Al-Qaida Sanctions Committee with Respect to Individuals, Groups, Undertakings and Other Entities Associated with Al-Qaida.” February 19. http://www.un.org/sc/committees/1267/AQList.htm.

[62] UN Security Council. 2015. “The List Established and Maintained by the Al-Qaida Sanctions Committee with Respect to Individuals, Groups, Undertakings and Other Entities Associated with Al-Qaida.” February 19. http://www.un.org/sc/committees/1267/AQList.htm.