On April 25, John Ridsdel, a Canadian national who was also a retired mining executive, was beheaded by the Abu Sayyaf Group (ASG) for failing to deliver the ransom amount of P300 million.
However, months before the beheading, a video was released by ASG showing Ridsdel asking for help and pleading that the governments do something to spare him his life. Looking back at the video now, critics have noticed two things that were not seen in previous videos released by the same group.
The video, which appeared in November, featured two black flags bearing Islamic State group symbols. This is something that ASG has not done in the past. The second thing is the immediate killing of 68-year-old Ridsdel after failure to deliver ransom. ASG has been known in the past to extend deadlines or wait patiently for the money to arrive. They were also known to be open to negotiations.
With these two things taken into consideration, could it be that the Philippines fallen as another country that has to deal with the spread of the Islamic State group from Syria and Iraq?
President Benigno Aquino III has said, with regard to Ridsdel’skilling, that he will “devote all [his] energies toward ensuring that, at the very least, this will be a very seriously degraded problem.”
“Even as it poses as a group of Islamic freedom fighters, the Abu Sayyaf has behaved as criminals focused on enriching themselves by taking hostages for ransom,” he said, describing them as opportunists who want to “align themselves with ISIS to gain access to the funds and resources of ISIS.”
Terrorism experts have come to believe that a faction of the AS, together with two other small armed groups, have pledged alliance under the IS flag. It is said that Isnilon Hapilon, together with several foreign militants from Malaysia, Indonesia and the Middle East, has forged the union.
Hapilon is a veteran Filipino militant who was among those who founded the Abu Sayyaf on southern Basilan Island in early 1990s.
Ahmed Hashim, a counterterrorism and defense policy expert with the S. Rajaratnam School of International Studies in Singapore, on the other hand, said that a vulnerable period awaits Southeast Asia. He said that a few hundred Malaysian and Indonesian militants and unconfirmed reports of Filipinos have joined the fighting. “Not too many have come back yet,” Hashim said. “The biggest danger is for Malaysia and Indonesia.”
It can be recalled that ASG has once foster impressions that it’s formally allied with al-Qaeda. However, this was not true, according to Abu Muslim, a former Abu Sayyaf ranking member who is now cooperating with the government.
Bottom line is that Abu Sayyaf is clearly a “terrorist group” in itself whether it is in alliance with bigger terrorist groups or not.