By Theodore Ezike
On March 10, a video surfaced of two Canadian citizens, John Ridsdel and Robert Hall, and Kjartan Sekkingstad, a Norwegian citizen, who were taken hostage in the Philippines by the Abu Sayyaf Group (ASG), an extremist Islamic militant group with historic ties to Al Qaeda and ISIS.
The video showed the two men kneeling with knives to their throats reading a prepared speech, pleading with the Canadian government to pay their ransom. According to CNN, the Canadian Department of Global Affairs is aware of the situation and is working closely with the Philippine government to gather more information.
Abu Sayyaf is demanding 1 billion Philippine pesos ($22 million) by April 8 for their release, reports the Straits Times. The group claims that if their demands are not satisfied, they will execute the captives.
It is unclear whether the Canadian government will pay for the release of John Ridsdel and Robert Hall. Last year, the German government paid 250 million pesos for two German nationals captured by Abu Sayyaf.
Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, who was on a tour of the United States while the deadline for the demand elapsed, did not comment on the kidnapping. Canada, like the United States, has a policy of not negotiating with terrorists, which has received criticism from the Canadian media.
On March 29, Abu Sayyaf hijacked a shipping vessel and kidnapped its crew of ten Indonesian nationals, according to Time Magazine. The group is demanding $1 million for the crew’s release. The situation is tense as Indonesian Defense Minister Ryamizard Ryacudu claims that the Indonesian government is willing to consider deploying troops and five warships to the area, as reported by the Anadolu Agency. The owner of the ship is willing to pay the ransom.
Late on April 8, the deadline for the western captives, Abu Sayyaf released an Italian missionary, Rolando del Torchio, who was captured in early October. According to Reuters, the reason for his release is unknown.
Abu Sayyaf, which means “bearer of the sword” in Arabic, was originally a part of the Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF), a separatists Muslim group in the southern Philippines. After MNLF began formal peace talks with the government in 1991, Abdurajak Abubakar Janjalani, a high-ranking member of the organization who fought against the Red Army in Afghanistan, splintered off from the party and created Abu Sayyaf.
Abu Sayyaf received secret funding from Osama Bin Laden’s brother-in-law and began conducting terror attacks and bombings throughout the southern Philippines and Malaysia. In September 2014, the group pledged allegiance to Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi and the Islamic State. Since then, Abu Sayyaf has kidnapped over 15 foreigners and many Filipinos.