Monday, February 27, 2017

ISIS affiliate Abu Sayyaf beheads a German tourist in the Philippines.

German tourists Jurgen Kantner and Sabine Merz. AFP.

ISIS affiliate Abu Sayyaf has beheaded a German tourist in the Philippines. AFP. 70 year old Jergen Kantner was executed by the terror group after no one paid Abu Sayyaf's demand for $600,000. Kantner was abducted from his yacht, the Rockall, in an act of piracy. His wife, Sabine Merz, was left dead in the vessel due to a gunshot wound. Both the German government and the government of the Philippines condemned the attack. The Philippines have been conducting airstrikes against Abu Sayyaf and had attempted to rescue Kantner. Kantner had been abducted by pirates before. In 2008 Somali pirates held him for 58 days before he was released after a ransom was paid. 

My Comment:
Full disclosure, I haven't watch the video. I have no interest in watching another innocent person get murdered by Islamic terrorists and this is no exception. After watching one of ISIS's latest atrocities, where they used a toddler aged child to execute a prisoner, I have decided that watching these kinds of videos probably isn't good for my mental health. I still think the concept of "bearing witness" is still important, but that doesn't mean I am going to watch every single execution. Seeing a 70 year old innocent man get brutally beheaded is not my idea of a good time and not something I really need to see. 

Though I don't like criticizing the dead, I have to wonder what Kantner and Merz were thinking. They knew first hand how dangerous that sailing into pirate infested waters is. You would think that after being captured and held by Somali pirates back in 2008 they would have avoided the very dangerous waters in the Philippines but I guess they didn't. It's not like piracy in the Philippines is new, they are world famous for being among the most dangerous in the world. 

Still, by any standard this was an absolute tragedy. Though perhaps Kantner showed some poor judgement in sailing into pirate infested waters, the ultimate responsibility for his death lies with the terrorists that killed him. I am hoping that these Abu Sayyaf pirate/jihadists are brought to the justice they so richly deserve. 

It's unclear if the government of the Philippines can do so. The president of the Philippines, Rodrigo Dutere is, quite frankly, completely nuts. His war on drugs is quite literal and he has been murdering and imprisoning drug dealers and users on a gigantic scale. The man is quite certainly brutal and more than a little mad, but will he fight Abu Sayyaf? 

Well he did say once that he would literally eat ISIS alive and I think he is crazy enough to actually do it. But bravado and crazy statements are one thing and actual action is another. The Philippines has been sending airstrikes and other attacks against Abu Sayyaf but I would prefer it if they gave up or scaled back their war against drugs and hit groups like Abu Sayyaf instead. Either way, destroying Abu Sayyaf has been a difficult task in the best of times. With a crazy president and a major war on drugs, it is only going to be more difficult. 

There is inevitably going to be an argument if someone should have paid Kantner's ransom. If he had been ransomed he would almost certainly be alive right now. The actual ransom amount, 30 million pesos, equivalent to roughly $600,000, is a small amount relatively speaking. And Kantner's 2008 experience where he got his ransom paid shows that if you do pay you have a good chance of being released. 

I think there is a major difference between what happened in Somalia and what happened in the Philippines though. The Somali pirates were mostly just normal criminals that didn't really have any ideology behind their crimes. They attacked vessels and took hostages because they wanted money, not because of politics. 

The kidnapping and murder of Jurgan Kantner was a political crime. Though paying any ransom, be it criminal or political, can encourage more kidnapping, doing so with a terrorist group has other implications. Abu Sayyaf is a brutal terrorist organization who has already conducted the most deadly terror attack in Philippines history. Paying ransom could give Abu Sayyaf the funds they need to pull off another terror attack like the Manila Bay ferry bombing that killed 116 people. Paying for this ransom wasn't politically possible and would be immoral to do so. 

I do have to say that Abu Sayyaf has always been the forgotten ISIS affiliate. Core ISIS, in Syria, Iraq and Libya gets most of the attention and their smaller groups like the Egyptian and Afghani provinces get more attention than Abu Sayyaf. Even Boko Haram, the Nigerian affiliate of ISIS, gets more international attention. With this murder perhaps Abu Sayyaf will gain more attention...  

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