Monday, April 25, 2016

ISIS affiliate Abu Sayyaf decapitates a Canadian hostage in the Philippines

Hostages captured by Abu Sayyaf. John Ridsdel at center. Abu Sayyaf video.

ISIS affiliate Abu Sayyaf has decapitated a Canadian hostage in the Philippines. Reuters. John Ridsdel, a former mining executive was captured along with 3 others in 2015 while on vacation. Abu Sayyaf had threatened to kill one of the hostages when their demand for $6.4 million per hostage was not met. New Canadian prime minster, Justin Trudeau, condemned the execution and pledged to work with the government of the Philippines to bring the executioner to justice and secure the release of 2nd Canadian hostage, Robert Hall. A Norwegian man and a Filipino woman captured with the two Canadians are still being held by Abu Sayyaf as well. Abu Sayyaf is a brutal terrorist group and they have links to both al-Qaeda and ISIS. 

My Comment:
It's always sad when a hostage is executed and this is no exception. Nobody deserves to be executed by a terrorist group, but it has been all too common. It is too late to save John Ridsdel, but I hope that the rest of the people held by Abu Sayyaf will be released. I also hope that his family members get help and support in the aftermath of this attack. 

Abu Sayyaf isn't a terrorist group that gets attention that often, but they have a long history of terrorism. They conducted the worst terrorist attack in the Philippines and the worst terror attack at sea with the SuperFerry 14 bombing. The group also has a long history of kidnapping people as well. Most of these hostages are eventually released or even escape, but this is not the first time that Abu Sayyaf has beheaded someone. 

The fact that Abu Sayyaf has captured so many people and that ransom has been paid so many times shows the danger of negotiating with terrorists. Doing so creates incentives for them to continue to capture more hostages. The $6.4 million that was demanded for these hostages would go a long way towards funding Abu Sayyaf for quite some time. If the ransom had been paid, they could have funded further kidnappings and even terrorist attacks. It just goes to show that you should never pay off terrorists.

I have to give some credit for the Canadian government. Obviously they didn't pay off Abu Sayyaf. I am guessing that even after the execution of John Ridsdel they won't spend money on releasing hostages. Though paying the ransom would spare the life of the hostages, it's clear that the Canadian government understands that it is very unwise to create incentives for hostage taking.

Frankly, I didn't think Justin Trudeau had it in him. I immediately suspected that Trudeau was a weak Prime Minster. He's far to the left, and is, quite frankly, a social justice warrior. I might be prejudiced against people that have his political beliefs but I thought that Trudeau would be the kind of guy that would immediately cave to terrorists. I guess he has a bit of a spine after all, unless he does cave in the end. 

As for Abu Sayyaf, they pledged allegiance to ISIS some time ago. It is unclear how strong that link is. There is some speculation that they only reason that they tied themselves to the ISIS bandwagon is for attention. I don't know if the links between the two groups is stronger then that. ISIS did have strong links to al-Qaeda in the past but given how much ISIS and al-Qaeda hate each other, it's likely that the links between Abu Sayyaf and al-Qaeda have deteriorated. The question is mostly academic as well. Abu Sayyaf is a dangerous and powerful terrorist group even without any links to other groups. 

For ISIS, links to Abu Sayyaf doesn't help them all that much. It's obviously a positive but nothing earth shattering. When Abu Sayyaf pulls off a terrorist attack or conducts and execution, ISIS gets a bit of the attention that those acts create. It also helps with the perception that ISIS is everywhere. There is even a tiny chance that if/when Iraq and Syria fall, the Philippines could be used as a backup base for ISIS. 

It's clear that Abu Sayyaf is slightly different then ISIS though. Both groups have decapitated hostages, but ISIS seems to be more brutal about it. As far as I know Abu Sayyaf didn't film this and didn't release video of the execution onto the internet. That is not the strategy that ISIS would have used. Half of their fame is due to their execution videos. Though Abu Sayyaf is taking a page out of the ISIS handbook, so far at least they haven't sunk to the depths that ISIS has. That's only good in comparison though, by any other standard Abu Sayyaf is a brutal and evil terrorist group. 

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