Thursday, April 28, 2016

The Terrorist Agenda of Islamist Jihad

"There will be no let-up in the operation."
"There are ongoing operations as we speak. Our troops are still on the ground. Jolo is surrounded by the sea, with many trees, bushes and forested areas. There are pockets in the jungle where civilians live. One of the big reasons that we cannot get right information from those people is because they are their relatives. Abu Sayyaf has a lot of sympathizers there."
"As a young lieutenant and captain, I experienced running around after bandits like Abu Sayyaf in central Mindanao. We could never get information from locals on the ground. The other problem we have right now is that because of information technology they can easily communicate with each other, using cellphones and VHF radios."
"We are saddened by the fact that we have been unable to achieve our objective of saving his life [abducted Canadian John Ridsdel]. We had intended to. Their safety [the other three captives of Abu Sayyaf] is the concern in our planning and execution of operations."
Lt. Col. Noel Detoyato, Mindanao province armed forces chief spokesman

"The situation for civilians there will deteriorate for a while and there will be some internally displaced people. We will provide them with some psychological support and some temporary tents. But most will go to their relatives or sleep on the ground with blankets that they will be given."
"People have been trying to reach us for help but we have not yet been allowed in there."
"Many people are given money after a kidnapping. Besides that, there is a lot of resentment of the government when they are being shelled and used as human shields. So, it is a difficult situation."
Dick Gordon, chairman, Philippine Red Cross
The RCMP are investigating the beheading of Canadian John Ridsdel (middle), shown here in a still image from a Abu Sayyaf hostage video. Canadian Robert Hall, left, remains in captivity with Norwegian Kjartan Sekkingstad right.
The RCMP are investigating the beheading of Canadian John Ridsdel (middle), shown here in a still image from a Abu Sayyaf hostage video. Canadian Robert Hall, left, remains in captivity with Norwegian Kjartan Sekkingstad right. (Site Intelligence Group/YouTube)

Canadian John Ridsdel was among four hostages abducted in September from an isolated marina and taken to Jolo Island, a stronghold of the Abu Sayyaf jihadist group in the Philippines. The kidnappings were meant for one purpose only; to extort money from governments to secure the release of their nationals. American and British prisoners of such groups know that their government will not pay ransom to secure their lives.

The infamous Islamic State videos of the beheadings of American and British journalists and aid workers made the situation clear.

French abductees, on the other hand, know that their government will not spare tens of millions to secure the release of their nationals, and other European countries respond in a similar way to the extortion demands. There are, of course, means other than active government interventions, when other actors can be called upon to negotiate, sometimes with the involvement of the families of the abducted, sometimes relying on the diplomatic efforts of other states.

And the money that changes hands is never openly credited to those countries but it is generally considered they are the source.

France was found to have paid out about $58 million in ransoms over a six year period, an investigation by the New York Times revealed. Switzerland and Spain were discovered to have paid over $10 million each to have their abducted nationals released unharmed. "It is difficult to level criticism on countries like Mali or Burkina Faso for facilitating negotiations when the countries that pay ransom, like Austria and Canada are given a pass", read a cable dated February 19, 2010 from the U.S. embassy in Mali.

John Ridsdel, a former journalist, oil and mining executive, 68 years of age, who was a restless, wandering spirit often entering areas of danger, was the selected Abu Sayyaf victim to prove that they mean business when they give a deadline for hostage release on payment of the demanded sum of money; in this instance $8-million, which the negotiators evidently attempted to whittle down to a more manageable sum and which the jihadis refused. His head was the price of the spurned demand.

The Philippine military has helicopter gunships and artillery on standby, but bad weather conditions kept them inactive. Government troops were ordered not to endanger the remaining hostages, 50 year old Calgary native Robert Hall, marina manager Norwegian  Kjartan Sekkingstad and Filipino Marites Flor. And nor, presumably, does the government particularly want to have any civilians on the island harmed in the search for and effort to destroy the Abu Sayyaf jihadis.

But, then, that's a specialty of Islamist terrorists, making a secure place for themselves among people whom they know support their agenda. And because they are trusted by those who see them as one of themselves, they also use the civilian population as shields among whom they operate to launch attacks against the enemy so when responses to their attacks fall in the form of return assaults while they shelter among civilians, the deaths of civilians convince them that it is the fault of the military not the jihadis that blame must fall to.

Abu Sayyaf rebels are seen in the Philippines in this video grab. Photo: Reuters

There are no overwhelming numbers of armed terrorists to concern the Philippine military. An estimated 200 to 400 extremists are held to be operating on Solo Island, the stronghold of Abu Sayyaf. But it is the jungle terrain, the forested mountains, the vulnerability of the population among whom the jihadists mingle that creates the problem in response.  And the group has carried out its bloody attacks for years.

When John Ridsdel was decapitated, his head was shoved into a plastic bag and taken by motorcycle to be dumped in Jolo Town near the city centre, in front of a group of schoolchildren. When blood was seen on the bag holding the head, police were called in. The Canadian embassy in Manila was sent a photograph of the head and they identified Mr. Ridsdel.

"More and more they will threaten to kill [the hostages] if the military does not keep a reasonable distance", warned Mr. Gordon. "But the hostages are always the most protected because it is money for them ..." Mr. Gordon is well aware that Canadian authorities were negotiating to have their nationals released. A situation that the government of the Philippines advises against, that submitting to the demands of the kidnappers plays into their hands, guaranteeing further future kidnappings for profit.

"I think they [Canada] can negotiate more imaginatively. They need somebody who understands these people. [Abu Sayyaf] are trying to get as much [money] as they can. The more you give them, the more they will ask you." His recommendation is that it would be more useful to support the civilians who back Abu Sayyaf by providing them with funding monthly to enable the young in impoverished Muslim areas of the country to attend school.

The trouble with that is the thinking of normal people given to democracy and pluralism, that it is poverty and lack of education that drives the impulses of Islamists who engage in violent jihad. When the truth is anything but; for the reality is that highly educated Muslims have no trouble at all joining Islamist fundamentalist groups, along with scions of wealthy Muslim families who see in jihad simply their obligation as the faithful to respond to Islam's most basic demand: jihad.

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