Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Update: Abu Sayyaf Demands $22,600 for Release of Warren Rodwell

Reportedly, the Abu Sayyaf terrorist group in the southern Philippines has sent four photos of Australian citizen Warren Rodwell, 53, to his Filipina wife, Miraflor Gutang, 27, and a monetary demand of US$22,837 via text. The result was that Gutang has said she cannot afford to pay the ransom, although she remains in police protective custody for security reasons.

Rodwell is being held on the southern island of Basilan, a stronghold of Abu Sayyaf, which is led by Puruji Indama, a notorious terrorist commander blamed for a spate of bombings, kidnappings and be-headings. Up to 2000 soldiers are searching the island for Rodwell, who was kidnapped by four gunmen posing as police officers on December 5.

COMMENT: This is a familiar story with different names and dates. An aging foreigner with perceptions of grandeur meets an attractive, 20-something local girl in a high-risk rural area in a developing country on the Internet and quickly marries her. The foreigner blows off offers of police protection due to the local kidnap threat and instead buys a pistol to protect himself from a large number of experienced kidnappers armed with assault rifles. The result is that the foreigner contributes to his plight by resisting a kidnapping and being shot in the process. Nevertheless, he is taken away by Abu Sayaaf, the same group that sank the Super Ferry 14 in 2004, the deadliest maritime act of terrorism in the world on record.

All and all, Rodwell's situation is somewhat victim-precipitated: He chose to live in high-threat kidnap environment; he obviously ignored the security advice of his own government; he ignored offers of police protection; and imprudently concluded that his overconfidence in procuring a pistol would save the day. Wrong on all counts.

Consequently, Abu Sayyaf, although dwindling in numbers, is a group not to be scoffed at. They have killed and beheaded foreigners in the past and are capable of doing it again. Unfortunately for Rodwell, despite his impressive-sounding profile on social media sites, he obviously is not a person of means.

Normally, when a foreigner is kidnapped in a developing country, and the victim does not have the required funds, family and friends back home end up "passing a hat" in order to collect the required ransom payment. Not knowing how generous Rodwell's family and friends are, this process could take time. On the other hand, foreign governments are not keen on their national paying ransom because it results in sustenance for kidnap gangs. Unless a ransom is paid, and soon, it is not outside the realm of possibility that Abu Sayyaf might remove a couple of fingers or toes to demonstrate their vigor and convince the governments of the Philippines and Australian that they are serious-minded.

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