Yearender: ‘No ransom, no release of hostages’
Roel Pareño (The Philippine Star) - December 22, 2015 - 9:00am

ZAMBOANGA CITY, Philippines – Hundreds of troopers have to spend another Christmas chasing Abu Sayyaf bandits holding about 10 captives, including foreigners, in the jungles of Sulu. 

While government security forces have yet to secure the freedom of Dutch birdwatcher Ewold Horns, who has been in captivity for three years now, the Abu Sayyaf managed to pull off another kidnapping in Davao del Norte this year.

Norwegian Kjartan Sekkingstad, Canadians John Ridsdel and Robert Hall, and Hall’s Filipina partner Maritess Flor were seized from a resort on Samal Islands on Sept. 21.

The Samal kidnapping put doubts on the government’s claim that it had defeated the Abu Sayyaf.

In November, a video was posted on social media showing the bandits with the captives and demanding P1 billion in ransom for each of the hostages.

Officials said the military offensives are expected to continue on the ground during Christmas and before the year ends to force the Abu Sayyaf to release the captives.

Brig. Gen. Alan Arrojado, chief of the Joint Task Group Sulu, said there would be rotations of troops to ensure fresh legs to run after and tire out the bandits. 

The National Intelligence Board special monitoring committee has placed 19 areas in the country under alert level 3, which means the terrorist threat is high due to the kidnappings.

Armed Forces chief Gen. Hernando Iriberri said the troopers are battling about 300 to 400 Abu Sayyaf militants under different leaders.

The figure quoted by Iriberri represented a similar strength of the bandit group that the military and police forces have been battling for 15 years now.

The bandits’ number swelled after the Sipadan kidnapping, where they earned a hefty ransom and recruited members.

Military intelligence operatives disclosed the group managed to maintain their force by offering money to their members and orphans of those who were killed in battle.

The group reportedly received P30 million in ransom in exchange for the release of Malaysian restaurant manager Thien Nyuk Fun in November.

Fun’s compatriot Bernard Then Ted Fen was beheaded a week after as the family failed to raise the P40-million ransom.

Both victims were seized last May in Sabah, Malaysia and brought in Sulu.

Peace advocate Octovio Dinampo said no hostages have been released without paying ransom.

“I do not believe it when someone says the captive was able to escape, walk out or run away,” Dinampo said.

He said the Abu Sayyaf’s Igassan group earned much from the release of two German captives last year.

He said military operations have been going on since the administration of former President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo, but the bandits remained in the area.

Dinampo urged authorities to examine its approach against the bandit group, noting the government forces could be running after the wrong group.

ABU SAYYAF ACIRC ALAN ARROJADO ARMED FORCES BERNARD THEN TED FEN CANADIANS JOHN RIDSDEL AND ROBERT HALL DINAMPO EWOLD HORNS GROUP HERNANDO IRIBERRI IN NOVEMBER
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