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M. Iqbal (1)

They kidnap for ransom

The Abu Sayyaf has practically lost its ideological values, all what they did and are doing are for ransom.

22 April 2016 08:20

Twice in a month, Abu Sayyaf hijacked four Indonesian vessels. The first hijacking happened last month and they captured 10 Indonesian sailors. The second was on April 15 and they kidnapped four Indonesians.

Abu Sayyaf, militant group founded by Abdurrazik Abu Bakar janjalani in 1991, based in and around Jolo and Basilan islands. Their aim to create an islamic independent state in southern Philippines  

Since Abu Sayyaf leader Isnilon Totoni Hapilon swore an oath of loyalty to Abu Bakar al-Baghdadi, the leader of ISIS on 23 July 2014, the group began kidnapping people to ransom, in the name of ISIS, in September 2014.

Mohagher Iqbal, chief negotiator of MILF (Moro Islam Liberation Front), also claimed that Abu Sayyaf motive only for ransom. "All what they did and are doing are for ransom," he said in an written interview with Faisal Assegaf from Albalad.co on last Wednesday, as following excerpts on this below.

Do you involve in the negotiation process to release 14 Indonesian citizens from Abu Sayyaf?

The MILF has been asked to help especially by our friends from Muhammadiyah, but it did not take off because we were informed that your government seemed to be the one calling all the shots, which is the natural way, in fact the best way.

How are their conditions? And how did you get information about them?

We were informed by our men on the ground that they are still safe, except by the ongoing military operations by the government  forces. The MILF has both political and military presence in Sulu.

Where are the captives now?

They are not placed in one place permanently. They transfer them from one place to another.

What is actually demanded by Abu Sayyaf? Is it only ransom or anything else?

The Abu Sayyaf has practically lost its ideological values, all what they did and are doing are for ransom.

Is it true they also demanded Abu Bakar Baasyir to be released as a condition for the release of Indonesian hostages?

I did not hear that.

Twice in a month, Abu Sayyaf hijacked Indonesian vessels. Did it mean they target Indonesians? If so, what are their motives?

I don't think they discriminate their victims. They are simply for money. It is against Islam to kidnap anyone, but it makes it more evil if even Muslims are also victimized.

If you involve in negotiation process, who did asked you to play that role? And why did they choose you as a negotiator?

I cannot answer that question. But if anyone comes and ask the MILF to help, then Insha Allah we will extend what little way we can offer. But when it comes to ransom deal, we will dissociate ourselves. It is against our policy and Islam.  

Do you have any close relationship with Abu Sayyaf leadership? With whom and how close?

We have no relationships with the Abu Sayyaf, either personal or organizational. But some of our members including our commanders have relatives in the Abu Sayyaf or are residing in the same towns like Indanan and Patikul.

After there was a fighting that killed 18 government troops, do you think Indonesian hostages were in danger situation following that incident?

The scene of this fighting is in Basilan, which is an island. Sulu is another island, but the since it is also the Abu Sayyaf which figured out in this fighting, then heat can also be felt by those in Sulu.

In your opinion, what is the best way to release all Indonesian hostages? By paying ransom or military action?

I have no opinion on this, but it is better to know this by being on the ground. I mean, that can be ascertained by one who would be working for their release, who will come from your end.

How much actually Abu Sayyaf ask for ransom? Can it be lowered than they asked?

I don't know, that can be part of the role of your front negotiator, if you intend to have it.

If Muhammadiyah asked to play as a negotiatior, what have you done so far in the negotiation process?

the MILF has not moved any further in view of your government stand that it is a government to government affair. By the way, your contingent in the International Monitoring Team (IMT) has also contacted us but the same reason disallows us to move further.

In Central Mindanao where the MILF has a heavy presence, kidnapping is effectively neutralized. In Sulu, while we have presence there but it is the bastion of the MNLF, Sulu Sultanate, and Abu Sayyaf.

Kidnapping is a menace, it is against Islam and human dignity.

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