Monday, 27 June 2016

Should terrorists be paid the ransoms they demand?                                                            

There are a number of questions that are extremely difficult to answer and the one I have chosen as the tittle of this article is truly one of the hardest to answer. There are only two possible answers and they are yes and no. That rules out—maybe with certain exceptions.

That question has hit all Canadians with respect to John Ridsdel, a Canadian citizen who was murdered by the terrorists who had previously captured him while he was in the Philippines.  He was murdered because the ransom demanded for his life was not given to the terrorists. Ridsdel was the president of a mining company that is based in the Philippines.

Robert Hall (then 50 and also a Canadian citizen) and John Ridsdel, (then 68) a Norwegian hotel manager (identified as Kjartan Sekkingstad who was then 58) and a Filipino woman who is believed to be the manager’s girlfriend, and has been identified only as Tess, (her age is unknown) were kidnapped in September 2015 by gunmen from the Holiday Oceanview Samal resort on Samal Island in the Philippines. The gunmen took the victims from the island on a motorized outrigger boat.

The resort premises was guarded 24/7 by licensed armed guards but only two Japanese guests attempted to prevent the abduction.  A naval blockade had been set-up to stop the gunmen from reaching Basilan Island, which is south of the resort. The island is the stronghold of Abu Sayyaf militants and where the four abductees were taken. Unfortunately, the militants were successful in reaching their island unimpeded.

In 2001, gunmen with Abu Sayyaf, the al Qaeda-linked terror group, attempted a similar attack, storming a resort on Samail Island called Pearl Farm, The group failed to kidnap foreign tourists from the resort, but three security guards were killed while fighting the attackers.

Although the Abu Sayyaf's leaders have pledged allegiance to Isis, analysts say they are mainly focused on their lucrative kidnappings-for-ransom rather than setting up an Islamic caliphate.

The Philippine military came under increased scrutiny on April 26th of this year to rescue more than 20 foreign hostages, with officials claiming "there will be no let up" in the effort to combat the militants.

The large island of Mindanao in the Philippines has been a frequent site of kidnappings and violence between government troops and several rebel groups, including Muslim extremists who have pledged allegiance to the Islamic State.

The kidnapping on on the Island of Mindanao was the first abduction of Westerners in in more than two years. In 2012, a Swiss national, Lorenzo Vinciguerra, and Ewold Horn, from the Netherlands, were abducted while bird-watching off the coast. Mr. Vinciguerra escaped in December. Mr. Horn is still being held. I presume he is being held in hopes of getting a ransom for his release.

Matt Williams, the country director in the Philippines for Pacific Strategies & Assessments, a risk-management and security firm, said Westerners in Mindanao had rarely been targeted for abduction in recent years, partly because of warnings by foreign governments to avoid the area, as well as heightened efforts by the Philippine security forces.

Abu Sayyaf is a militant group based in and around Jolo and Basilan islands in the southwestern part of the Philippines, where for more than four decades, Moro groups (coined term for the population of Muslims in the Philippines) have been engaged in an insurgency for an independent province in the country.

This terrorist group is considered very violent, and was responsible for thePhilippines' worst terrorist attack—the bombing of the ferry boat called the Superferry 14 in 2004, which killed 116 people. They have also been involved in other  criminal  activities, including kidnapping, rape, child sexual assault, forced marriages, drive-by shootings, extortion, and drug trafficking, As of 2016, the group is estimated to between  have 400 and 600 members which is down from 1250 in the year 2000.

Now I will deal with the issue of paying ransom money to get hostages free from their abductors.

Kidnapping was a common occurrence in the United States and Canada many years ago  but nowadays, it is so rare, I can`t even remember reading about a kidnapping for ransom for many years now.

But alas, it has become a common occurrence in other parts of the world and for the most part, this crime is committed by Islamic terrorists. It was previously committed by Somali terrorists who actually kidnapped freighters and their crew and the owners of the kidnapped freighters paid millions of dollars to get their freighters and the crew back. Now that crime in that part of the world is history since a number of nations sent warships in the area to protect the freighters and their crews.

There are four governments that I know of that have publically stated that they will not pay the ransoms demanded by terrorists to save the lives of its citizens who have been captured by terrorists and threatened with death. They are the United Kingdom, the United States, Canada and Japan. Now I will give you the updates on those policies.

United Kingdom

Home Secretary Theresa May said in November 2014 that there was new legislation that was designed to stop the families and employers of people kidnapped by organizations like the Islamic State (ISIS) paying for their release. She said, “Our position is clear.  Ransom payments to terrorists are illegal under UK and international law.” May also said at a counter-terrorism event in London where she unveiled parts of a new counter-terrorism bill to be introduced to the British parliament.  “Agreeing to meet the demands of barbaric groups like ISIL (an alternative name for ISIS) would only put many more lives at risk.”
 She was right of course. If the terrorists really believe that they will receive large sums of ransom money for hostages that they have kidnapped, then everyone who is working, traveling or vacationing in areas where the terrorists are located; are at risk of being kidnapped for ransom. We won’t be hearing about a few hostages, we will be hearing bout hundreds of hostages. And they won’t all be just adults. They will include children also. 
 What government will then refuse to pay ransom to save a child from being beheaded by the terrorists that kidnapped the child?


The key policy shaping the Australian Government's response to the kidnapping of Australian citizens overseas is that the government does not pay ransoms. This policy existed in 1994 when David Wilson was kidnapped in Cambodia. At that time, the three governments involved—the United Kingdom, France and Australia—were united in their decision not to pay a ransom to any terrorists demanding money to release their hostages. The Australian Government's longstanding policy is that it does not make payments or concessions to kidnappers. The Australian Government considers paying ransoms increases the risk of further kidnappings. If a stray dog yaps at your door and you give the dog food, it will return to your door yapping for more food.

Kidnapping people for ransom can be a lucrative business and the payment of ransom by terrorists creates an incentive for all kinds of individuals and groups to engage in kidnapping. The Australian government's prime rationale in not paying ransoms is to avoid creating any form of incentive for Australian citizens to be kidnapped by anyone.

The merest hint that the Australian government or any other government may become involved in the ransoming of kidnap victims makes me apprehensive, because of the perception in the minds of some people that this is an indication that any ransom will be underwritten by many government.

 In international kidnapping cases, the Australian Government and any other government is bound to respect the sovereignty of the State in which the kidnapping takes place. This will mean that the government is often limited to pursuing the release of an Australian hostage through diplomatic channels and through assistance to local authorities. The degree to which Australian government and other government’s agencies can become involved with armed forces on the ground, will differ from cases to case and from country to country.


Kidnapped hostages Ridsdel and Hall appeared in a video, delivering messages as masked militants pointed guns at them. Ridsdel was held sitting on the ground by one of the captors throughout the video, with a knife pointed at his head. Later Ridsdel and Hall were seen in the video with a long knife raised to their necks as they deliver messages, where they say they are being ransomed. 
Ridsdel said, “To the Canadian prime minister and to the Canadian people in the world, please, do as needed to meet their demands, within one month or they will kill me, they will execute us,”
 Hall said in the video, “I’m a Canadian citizen. I’m being held hostage by Abu Sayyaf for one billion pesos.” One billion Philippine pesos is equivalent to approximately 28 million dollars in Canadian money.
 As per Canada’s policy about paying ransom money to terrorists, no money was sent to the terrorists and subsequently, Ridsdel was beheaded.

 The next paragraph may not be suitable for the squeamish but it is necessary to explain what is at risk if no money is sent to the hostage takers to save the lives of the hostages who are under a threat of death.

A couple of years ago, I watched a video where a man was beheaded with a knife by a terrorist. The terrorist was behind his victim who was on his knees with his hands tied behind his back. The terrorist grabbed the man’ jaw and began drawing the knife across the throat of his victim in a sawing motion. Blood began spurting from his throat. At first the victim began screaming but soon the sound from his mouth were moans and as the knife sliced deeper into the man’s neck, all I could hear was a hissing noise coming from his windpipe. Seconds later, there was no sound coming from the victim. He was alive for at least a minute before he died.

This is what all the victims who are beheaded by terrorists go through when they are being beheaded and there is no doubt in my mind that Ridsdel suffered in the same manner that the other victims did.

Now you can understand how difficult it is for governments (including Canada) to refuse to pay the ransom demanded by the terrorists to spare the lives of hostages.

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said after he learned of the murder of Ridsdel, “On behalf of the Government of Canada and all Canadians, I would like to express my deepest condolences to the family and friends of Mister Ridsdel, They have endured a terrible ordeal and this is a devastating moment for all of them.”

 But he also said, “My conversations with President (Benigno) Aquino of the Philippines were concentrated on ensuring that we bring these terrorists to justice, while at the same time ensuring the continued safety of Canadians while not in any circumstances paying a ransom to terrorist organizations or terrorists.”

Trudeau cited two reasons for his refusal to pay ransoms, with the first being that it helps fund terrorist organizations so they can commit crimes around the world. “But more importantly,” he added, “paying ransom for Canadians would endanger the lives of every single one of the millions of Canadians who live, work and travel around the globe every single year.”
 Sadly, he is absolutely right. We are in what is referred to as a Catch 22 situation. If no ransom is paid, the hostage dies. If the ransom is paid, more citizens will be at risk of being kidnapped and many more will be killed in that hideous way that others have been murdered in the past when no ransom was paid by their countries.

But has Canada paid ransoms in the past? A leaked U.S. State Department cable suggests that al-Qaeda in Africa was paid a ransom that freed two kidnapped Canadian diplomats in 2010.

Musa Kusa, Libya's former intelligence chief and acting foreign minister, told U.S. ambassador Gene Kretz, according to a cable disclosed. In the cable, he said, “There had been eight kidnappings in the past six months, including the two Canadian officials who were recently released in return for a ransom payment. Such payments were unfortunate and only increased the strength of al-Qaeda.” It is unknowns as to who paid the ransom.


Japanese nationals have been the target of Middle East extremists in the past, but Tokyo will be under pressure from international allies not to pay the ransom demanded by the terrorists.

In a video released by Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL),  shown in January 2015, a knife-wielding man was demanding a ransom of $200 million for the freedom of two Japanese hostages; Kenji Goto and Haruna Yukawa.

The two men were paraded before the cameras in orange jumpsuits three days after Shinzo Abe, the Japanese prime minister, announced in Cairo that Japan would provide $2.5 billion to help stabilise the Middle East. Of that total, $200 million in grants would be specifically set aside to step up international efforts against ISIL, including extending support to refugees from Iraq and Syria.

The captors of 24-year-old Shosei Koda issued a statement saying they would execute him if Japan failed to withdraw its troops from Iraq within 24 hours. The government of Junichiro Koizumi said Japan would not cede to terrorists. In October 2004, Shosei Koda was beheaded by a group headed by Abu Musab al-Zarqawi after ignoring warnings not to travel to Iraq.

Koda’s execution was recorded on video.  While he was seated on an American flag, his captors read a speech before holding Koda down on his belly and decapitating him with a knife. His body was later found in Baghdad and repatriated to Japan.

In that same year,  three Japanese aid workers, including a woman, were seized in Iraq. Militants held knives to their throats and demanded that Japan withdraw the 550 troops that were providing logistical support to allied nations operating in Iraq. The three Japanese hostages—Nahoko Takato, 34, Soichiro Koriyama, 32, and 19-year-old Noriaki Imaiwere released a week later.

Was a ransom paid for their release?  The Japanese government said at the time that no ransom was paid, although a team of negotiators who were sent to hold talks with intermediaries reportedly emphasized that the Japanese forces operating in the region were unarmed and were tasked with rebuilding infrastructure and delivering aid and supplies to local people.

Back in Japan, the three were criticized for "causing trouble" for Japan and the government charged them $6,000 for the chartered aircraft that brought them home.

 Jun Okumura, a visiting scholar at the Meiji Institute for Global Affairs, told The Telegraph. "I don't think that Japan has the intangible resources necessary to carry out the ransom money transfer," he said, adding that the problem for the Abe administration is compounded by the fact that the ransom demand has been openly reported and it will be obvious that the payment has been made if the men are freed.

 That would cause problems with Tokyo's allies, which insist that nations cannot give in to extremists or otherwise it will open the floodgates to more kidnapping incidents.

United States

President Obama has ordered a complete review of the government's policy regarding U.S. hostages taken overseas, the White House confirmed in November 2014. National Security Council (NSC) spokesman Alistair Baskey said that the review was ordered over the summer in response to what he called "the increasing number of U.S. citizens taken hostage by terrorist groups overseas and the extraordinary nature of recent hostage cases

White House Press Secretary Josh Earnest clarified that that the review does not include a "reconsideration" of the long-standing policy that ransoms should not be paid to terror organizations.

The review, which was first reported by The Daily Beast, became public one day after the White House confirmed that American aid worker and former Army Ranger Peter Kassig had been beheaded by ISIS in Syria. The terror group had posted a video claiming that it had beheaded Kassig to various social media sites. Kassig was the third American to be beheaded by ISIS since August 2014.

The beheadings have sparked a fresh debate over the U.S. government's policy of not paying ransom to terror groups. The parents and brother of journalist James Foley, who was beheaded by ISIS in August, 2014 told Fox News in September that government officials had told them that they could face prosecution if they attempted to negotiate a ransom. U.S. law prohibits American citizens from paying money to terror groups. 

However, an October of that same year, an article in  Foreign Policy magazine reported that U.S. efforts to free hostages held in Syria had become bogged down amid general confusion as to the exact policies of the U.S. government on issues such as ransom payments.    

According to Foreign Policy, the debate over ransom payments pits the White House, NSC, and State Department against the Justice Department and the FBI. The former entities believe that paying ransoms to terror groups would encourage more kidnappings of Americans abroad. By contrast, the latter offices believe that the issue of whether to pay ransom should be made on a case-by-case basis, and reportedly are willing to aid families if they believe that paying up represents the best method to ensure the hostages' freedom.

The beheadings had sparked a fresh debate over the U.S. government's policy of not paying ransom to terror groups. The parents and brother of journalist, James Foley who was beheaded by ISIS in August 2014,  told Fox News in next month that government officials had told them that they could face prosecution if they attempted to negotiate a ransom. U.S. law prohibits American citizens from paying money to terror groups. 

 Suppose ISIS had kidnapped a small child of a diplomat serving in Syria. If the diplomat paid the money demanded by ISIS from his own personal source, would he really be prosecuted?

And finally

As I said in the beginning of this article, this kind of question is extremely difficult to answer.

My youngest daughter and her four young children visited the Philippines a number of months ago and they were there for a month. If they had been captured by terrorists who demanded a million dollars for their release, I couldn’t save them because I don’t have that kind of money. I would beg my government to pay the ransom and if they refused, I would ask the people to contribute money towards the ransom even if I would be jailed for doing so.  Fortunately, they returned back to Canada safely.

There is only one way to stop this plague that seems to be circulating around the world. Hunt the terrorists down and exterminate them like the bugs they are.

During the Second World War with Germany and Japan, this was what was done. Hitler knew that his empire was dwindling right up to his bunker in Berlin so he killed himself. The Americans brought Japan to its knees and they hanged Tojo, who was the man who brought that horror to China, the Americans and the rest of the nations in the Pacific.

If it cost billions of dollars to hunt down and kill the terrorists worldwide, so be it. Once they have been done away with, demanding ransom for kidnapped hostages will be something of the past. 

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