Saturday, March 23, 2013

Philippines: Australian Hostage Warren Rodwell, 54, Released from Captivity, Ransom Paid

According to The New York Times, a thinner-than-normal Warren Rodwell, 54, held for 15 months by a kidnap-for-ransom group believed to be Abu Sayyaf in the Muslim-dominated south, was released from captivity at approximately 0130 hours on March 23, in an apparent ransom deal, the truth of which may never be factually clarified.

Original ransom demands by the abductors at one point reached US$2 million, although there are clear indications that the final pay-out was much less.

COMMENT: As I said yesterday (March 22), those who worked tirelessly and diligently over the last 15 months to rescue or gain Rodwell's release might never have been forced to endure the risks and hardships they experienced if the former soldier had simply adhered to the Australian government's advice to avoid the southern Philippines.  

Although the Australian government categorically denied that it paid Rodwell's ransom, it is presumed that other interests paid the ransom, which may well include news organizations, book publishers, Rodwell's family and/or friends. 

In recent years, Abu Sayyaf has shifted from being ideologically linked to al-Qaeda, to being far more focused on ransom kidnapping for those foreigners who choose to ignore their governments' travel warnings concerning the Muslim-dominated south. 

As this report is filed, there are still seven foreigners in the hands of kidnap gangs in Mindanao: one Japanese, one Swiss, one Dutch, one Jordanian and three Malaysians.

Despite Warren Rodwell's release, the southern Philippines remains just as dangerous as it was. Consequently, ALL foreigners are urged to avoid travel to this region.

The Australian government has by far the most strongly worded travel warning against travel to the Muslim south.