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Philippines: Lucrative Hostage Trade Puts Spotlight On Abu Sayyaf Separatists
Since a Libyan-financed ransom deal freed the bulk of the Western hostages held by the Abu Sayyaf Islamic Separatist group in Mindanao's southernmost Sulu Archipelago, Philippine editorialists have railed against the kidnappers and fumed over their ability to flout domestic and international authority. Many Asian and European papers agreed with the independent Philippine Star that the ransom deal "sent the message that in this country, kidnapping pays handsomely." The subsequent abduction of an American citizen unleashed a wave of speculation that the U.S., which according to Philippine writers, "for sure would not pay ransom for its kidnapped citizens," would retaliate, perhaps militarily, against Abu Sayyaf. European commentary focused on speculation that Libya's Col. Qadhafi may be able to use the release of European hostages to further the re-integration of his former pariah state into the international fold. Illustrative material follows:
PHILIPPINE FUMING: A writer in independent Malaya expressed a pervasive Philippine editorial hostility towards Abu Sayyaf when he exhorted: "Attack the bastards and decimate them. Now. To wait before attacking the Abu Sayyaf will not result in any less embarrassment." Editorialists dismissed Abu Sayyaf claims to represent disenfranchised segments of Philippine society or its Muslims, labeling the separatists as "bandits who are out to exchange hostages at a price" and who "feign political motives when they make demands."
ANTICIPATING AMERICAN ACTION: After the August 29 news that American citizen Jeffrey Schilling had been abducted in Sulu, many Philippine commentators predicted and welcomed an active U.S. role in confronting Abu Sayyaf. Widely-read, independent Malaya stated: "Let's see how the professionals in the counter-terrorism business will proceed.... We sorely need instruction on how to deal with armed lunatics." Another writer asserted that "with the U.S. government involved, things will get cracking." Independent Business World contended that a scheduled visit by Secretary of Defense Cohen lent "credibility to the allegation that it is the U.S. itself that wants to intervene in the ongoing hostage drama." Amidst this media buzz about U.S. involvement, independent Today expressed consternation that the U.S. Embassy had reportedly "turned the Schilling case over to the Philippine government." Today caustically asked what had become of the U.S. State Department's "insults...condemning us...for striking deals with pariahs?"
EUROPE FOCUSES ON QADHAFI ROLE: Europeans were split on Col. Qadhafi's bankrolling of the Abu Sayyaf hostage release. Some, like Paris's right-of-center Le Figaro, thought the affair would "accelerate Libya's return to the community of honorable nations." Others, citing Libyan links with terrorists, sided with a German radio commentator who said it seemed "grotesque that Chancellor Schroeder officially thanked 'Mr. Qadhafi' for his successful mediation role."
EDITOR: Stephen Thibeault
EDITOR'S NOTE: This survey is based on 63 reports from 10 countries August 29-September 12. Editorials are grouped by region; editorials from each country are listed from the most recent date.
The independent Today observed (9/12): "The U.S. Embassy casually remarked the other day that it had turned over the Schilling case to the Philippine government. Just like that. Turned over. To us. Whatever happened to the 'no truckling to terrorists, no dealing with kidnappers' policy of the U.S.? Whatever happened to insults heaped by the U.S. on Libyans for getting the European hostages released in the peaceful and possibly costly terms their governments wanted? The U.S. State Department insulted the Europeans and us over the release of the Sipadan hostages, condemning us both for striking deals with pariahs. Well, now that one of its own has been kidnapped, why doesn't the U.S. come out and say forthrightly that the case should be handled with the maximum of violence and a minimum of tact, as it has repeatedly prescribed for such situations?"
"Abu Sayyaf Are 'Bandits'"
Christine Cheng-Chua wrote in the independent Business World (9/12): "The Abu Sayyaf are bandits out to exchange hostages for a price. They feign political motives when they make demands such as the release of comrades in the United States but, given their background, it is a poor attempt to ennoble their existence."
"Rescue In The Offing"
Federico Pascual advised in the independent Philippine Star (9/12) : "Don't blink. Keep your eyes on the Abu Sayyaf. Especially after (President) Erap Estrada made it a point to announce in New York that no, he's not sending commandos after the Abus. One morning, you might wake up swamped with news of a night assault with some of the remaining hostages, including that American from the dark side of Oakland, rescued.... With the impasse dragging on, more and more people are beginning to think 'hindi bale na' (never mind) if some of them (hostages) get hurt in the rescue attempt."
"Trophy Hostages Have Been Released"
Commenting on the September 9 release of four European hostages, independent Manila Times said (9/11): "The darker side of the situation must also be borne in mind: that 16 other people still remain with the Abu Sayyaf--a Filipino diving instructor captured in Sipadan, two French journalists, an American, and a collection of misguided evangelists. Getting them out may prove to be an even more difficult task: The Abu Sayyaf, awash with ransom money at present, is once more pitching from a position of power (despite the reported battles between factions over how the loot gets split). The Sayyaf may opt to raise their price, making ransom an impractical option. The trophy hostages have all been released; it is unlikely the governments or supporters of those remaining would be able to meet the demand."
"Hostages Left Behind Are Only 'Small Pikers'"
Independent Today commented (9/11): "And so the case is closed; while hostages remain, they are not the sort who will call the attention of the global community: a Filipino diving instructor, an evangelist and his 12 disciples, the strange American named Schooling (sic) and two extremely imprudent French journalists just won't cut it as far as media attention is concerned. And it seems Libya is not inclined to pay ransom for any of these people, which means Libya will not undertake any efforts on their behalf. But then perhaps the Abu Sayyaf should count its earnings and let these small pikers go--if, of course, they only had the guts."
"U.S. Has Not Ruled Out 'Libya's Offer' To Secure Schilling's Release"
Nelson Navarro wrote in independent Philippine Star (9/11): "Although the U.S. government maintains its strict no-ransom policy, it has not exactly ruled out Libya's offer to facilitate Schilling's release under roughly the same cash terms arranged for the Sipadan group. Libya's success in securing Schilling's freedom, say some analysts, could go a long way in overturning United States and UN sanctions that had been imposed on the North African nation for supposed complicity of some (of its) nationals in the 1988 bombing of a PANAM plane over Lockerbie, Scotland.... Far from diminishing, the stakes have skyrocketed. As one Abu Sayyaf commander bluntly said in demanding $10 million for Schilling's life: 'An American is worth 10 times that of a European.' It could also mean the landing of U.S. marines or SWAT teams that could turn Jolo into a howling wilderness and the Philippines into a helpless ward of U.S. foreign policy all over again. Everybody hopes not; hence, the bias for 'peaceful solutions.'"
"Not Yet Time For Jubilation"
Independent Philippine Star cautioned (9/10): "The nightmare...is far from over for the government.... While millions of dollars in ransom money secured the release of the foreign hostages and a Filipina, it also sent the message that in this country, kidnapping pays handsomely. Already, 'little Abu Sayyafs' have mushroomed in Mindanao...and Schilling was detained by the Abu Sayyaf faction of Abu Ahmad Salayuddi to promote Muslim extremist views.... Cash diplomacy has diminishing returns and merely abets terrorism. It will take decisive action to stop this scourge."
"Schilling 'Dropped Altogether' As Subject By U.S. Embassy And Philippines"
The editorial of liberal Today said in part (9/9): "Both the U.S. Embassy and the Philippine
government have dropped the subject of Schilling altogether, leaving the besotted fool where he wanted to be: nowhere with his sweetheart. Seems that he was detained because, opinionated as he was, he wouldn't yield a point of Islamic doctrine with his hosts-turned-hostage-taker. Now if that isn't stupid."
"We Commend The U.S. For Its Stand"
Former Education Secretary Alejandro Roces wrote in his column in third-leading Philippine Star (9/7): "In a desperate bid for world attention, the Abu Sayyaf are trying to sell video footage of Schilling in captivity and photographs of Schilling at $10,000 each. We're glad there were no takers. People usually have to pay for favorable publicity. The Abu Sayyaf expects media to pay for their unfavorable international image. We commend the United States for taking a difficult but correct stand on this predicament. There will be no, or at least fewer, kidnappings of Americans in the future. Why? Simple. They have no ransom value."
"Playing In The Big Leagues"
Luis Teodoro observed in liberal Today (9/7): "Now we have in the Philippines...the possibility of a U.S. military operation--not primarily to rescue Schilling, but to capture ranking leaders of the Abu Sayyaf who may have information on the exact whereabouts of Osama Bin Laden, who is known to be somewhere in Afghanistan. The Abu Sayyaf has stumbled into the big leagues,
where the Untied States is the lead player, and the rules radically different. How long can it survive the change? The best estimates say, not long."
"Enough Is Enough"
Emil Jurado lamented in independent Manila Standard (9/6): "I have said it before, and I repeat...enough is enough of this lackadaisical treatment of the bastards. It's time Malacanang and the government resorted to the only option that these bastards understand--force of arms. In the meantime, Malacanang has been made to appear worldwide like a doormat with every foreign government meddling and poking their fingers in the crisis, paying off ransom. We have been humiliated long enough."
An editorial in liberal, independent Today (9/6) advised: "The better course of action is not to appoint a negotiator at all; in fact, not to talk at all to the Abu Sayyaf about Schilling and to stop issuing press releases about this fellow. Just pretend this dreadlocked denizen...doesn't exist because, if you have noticed, the Americans aren't saying anything, which is making it seem that this idiot is not their problem.... Here was an idiot...who knowingly and willingly walked into danger and either cannot or does not wish to get out of it.... So the best policy to pursue is one of complete obliviousness. If we try to rescue this fellow and something goes wrong, the U.S. government will not defend our country's reputation when the U.S. media trash it yet again for getting an American killed.... If we buy this fellow's freedom, we shall be insulted by the U.S. State Department from here to eternity for truckling to terrorists and buckling under blackmail. There is no pleasing some people, so the Americans are best left alone on this one, to deal with it in any way they want. Indeed, if the Americans want to handle this situation in their usual hamfisted fashion a la Waco, we should step well aside and let them."
"Who Wants Intervention?"
Alex Lacson declared in independent Business World (9/6): "(Defense Secretary) Mercado stressed that (U.S. Secretary of Defense) Cohen's (September 15-16) visit has nothing to do with the abduction...of...Schilling.... It is difficult to believe that the visit has nothing to do with Schilling's abduction. In fact, under the circumstances, it is more credible to say that the visit has largely to do with the abduction. It is difficult to see why Cohen, who has already visited the country three times since President Estrada assumed office in June 1998, would drop by just to say goodbye to his Filipino counterparts.... The truth is, most Filipinos have accepted the possibility, if it is not yet a fact, that the Americans will eventually intervene in the way our government handles the Abu Sayyaf affair, if only to insure the release of Jeffrey Schilling.... At this point, it is hard to point out which of the two governments wants to intervene.... Cohen's visit as well as the joint U.S.-RP military exercises on counter-terrorism appear to lend credibility to the allegation that it is the United States itself that wants to intervene in the ongoing hostage drama."
"Schilling Us Softly"
Argee Guevarra told the readers of independent Business World (9/6): "The links of Mr. Schilling and (his wife) Ms. Osani to the leadership infrastructure of Abu Sayyaf are clear and unmistakable and leaves little interpretation other than that the couple conspired with Abu Sabaya to stage-manage the abduction.... And besides, the U.S. State Department has vigorously and repeatedly denied that Schilling moonlights as its spook. Even the body language of U.S. embassy personnel seem to tell us that Schilling is not engaged in intelligence-gathering activity for Uncle Sam.... There is every reason to believe that Jeffrey
Schilling, at the very least, is a willing victim of an incident which was of his own making."
"Pastoral Letter Blasts Abu Sayyaf"
The editorial in the second-leading Philippine Daily Inquirer (9/5) said: "Basilan Bishop Romulo dela Cruz expressed the sentiment of the majority of the people when he urged the military and the police to flush out the Abu Sayyaf so that they would never again wreak havoc on others. In a pastoral letter read recently in the churches of Basilan, the bishop enumerated the many cases of arson, ambuscades, killings and kidnappings committed by the Abu Sayyaf in Basilan.... There seems to be no end in sight to the Abu Sayyaf kidnapping saga. They may release several hostages today or tomorrow, but the next day they will kidnap more people to assure themselves of protection from the police and the military.... We can hardly blame anyone for thinking like the Basilan bishop that it's time to flush them out and finish them off."
University of the Philippines political science professor Alex Magno wrote in the independent Manila Standard (9/5): "While everyone else seemed to have hemmed and hawed, waffled and whined, in the face of the Abu Sayyaf's evil presence, Bishop Romulo de la Cruz...condemned the Abu Sayyaf and asked that the bandits be flushed from their camps.... By doing what he did, Bishop de la Cruz courts death.... PNP Chief Panfilo Lacson, quick to the draw for PR points, announced that his men will secure the brave bishop. That is not enough. Government can only begin to approximate Bishop de la Cruz's courageous stand by stating for the record that should the cleric be harmed, the Abu Sayyaf must expect that avenging troops will take no prisoners."
"Things Just Don't Add Up"
Emil P. Jurado's column in independent Manila Standard concluded (9/5): "Many things don't seem to add up in the kidnapping of Schilling. Why was he there with his Muslim girlfriend, seeking to get in touch with the Abu Sayyaf?... Why did Schilling try to pass himself off as an Arab? Was he a CIA asset to get to the Abu Sayyaf? Was it kidnapping or a 'kidnap me?' These questions will probably remain unanswered until the hostage crisis is finally resolved."
"Would The U.S. Gain From An Intervention?"
Writing from New York City, Christina Cheng-Chua observed in leading Business World (9/5): "In anticipating whether the United States will react as decisively in saving the life of another hostage, a real one at that, one should ask, 'What are the compelling reasons for national intervention? What is there to be gained if it succeeds, or to be lost if it fails in its rescue?' A human life, yes. That will be a part of the mission, but one has to go beyond that. Will the government further its own interests by dealing with kidnappers motivated by money and principles shot from the hip? Will it compromise its perceived strength or undermine real authority if it fails in its mission, barring reasonable alternatives? The answer is no. As far as U.S. interests go, the kidnapping of Jeffrey Schilling is a poor shot, one that doesn't command attention from the myriad concerns it has right now."
"Was Schilling Working An Arms Deal?"
Ramon Tulfo held in Philippine Daily Inquirer (9/5): "If it's true that American tourist Jeffrey Craig Schilling is not a kidnap victim and was contracted by the Abu Sayyaf to buy arms for the terrorist group, then the government should not waste its time negotiating for his release. I'm sure the U.S. government would not continue to waste its time fighting for its citizen who has
allied himself with a merciless band of terrorists.... Reports say that Schilling and his new bride went to the Abu Sayyaf hideout to discuss with the group how he would bring in guns and other armaments into the country which he would buy in the United States. During the discussion, Schilling allegedly hurt the sensibilities of his Moro hosts when he engaged them in a religious debate. That idiot should have known that nobody wins in a religious debate."
"Finish 'Em Off So We Can All Go Back To Work!"
Veteran journalist and publisher Max Soliven asserted in independent Philippine Star (9/3): "It's clear that nobody will pay $10 million for Schilling.... Nor, the U.S. government has indicated, will they permit anybody else, lest of all...Qadhaffi of Libya, to pay ransom for his freedom.... I hate to sound uncharitable and even callous, but I submit that we've already shed far too many tears over the hostages and other victims of the cruel Abus.... It's time we stopped this hand-wringing and...go in with guns firing and send those pirates, torturers and murderers straight to the Judgement throne of Allah.... No self-respecting nation can permit itself to be held hostage, as a people, for so long--nor tempt other kidnapping gangs and rebel movements to escalate their evil activities by giving the impression that our government is weak and helpless."
Liberal, independent Today commented editorially (93): "Whatever the real status of this Schilling character, the point is this: the man holds an American passport, and whatever the wretched nature of its citizens, the United States looks after its own. Which means that if anything happens to Schilling...the result will be the elimination of every Abu Sayyaf member from the face of the earth--swiftly, we suspect, because the United States simply will not tolerate such behavior.... This is one instance in which the Philippine government should just lean back and let the Americans do the talking. Or the shooting. Even the bombing."
"U.S. Marines To The Rescue?"
Independent Malaya (9/3) commented editorially: "Let's stop deluding ourselves that the U.S. Marines will soon be storming the beaches of Talipao to rescue Jeffrey Schilling and, in the process, deliver us from the depredations of the Abu Sayyaf.... The United States may not make deals with terrorists, but neither does it unduly place at risk the lives of its citizens. Our bet is that the United States will soon start studiously ignoring the Schilling case.... What this all means is that we cannot throw this problem to Washington. Sure, the Americans will give all the help it can.... But the Abu Sayyaf is our headache.... Let's not delude ourselves that the United States will lift the Abu Sayyaf burden off our back."
"Send In Ping Lacson Backed By U.S. Logistics"
Federico Pascual reported in independent Philippine Star (9/3): "The majority of readers who have bothered to share their thoughts and feelings on issues involving Americans harbor these thoughts: While they want the U.S. to move against the Abu Sayyaf after the gang kidnapped an American, Jeffrey Schilling, they are not ready to endorse direct American military action.... The United States is generally seen only as a convenient tool for teaching the Abu Sayyaf a lesson and getting even with them. And Schilling happens to have emerged as the excuse for such possible U.S. action.... Many readers who want the shooting to start right away suggest that the chore of rescuing the hostages be entrusted to Philippine National Police chief Ping Lacson and special squads of the national police.... A significant number point out that if there is anybody who could bring the kidnappers to their knees, if not to their grave, it is Lacson and his posse.... One scenario suggested is for the United States to stay in the background while
giving Lacson's men the logistics needed for the speedy liquidation of the Abu Sayyaf problem."
"When Will Rule Of Law Return To Sulu?"
Independent Manila Standard stated (9/3): "Sulu is theirs.... The Abu Sayyaf Group has never had it so good.... Anyway, the Abu Sayyaf have had their fill of misadventure.... Their time is over. Or should be. But who will tell them that and pound into their heads that they are terrorists and criminals and crime do not pay?"
"Don't Negotiate With Hostage Takers"
Former education secretary Alejandro Roces wrote in the third leading Philippine Star (9/2): "The United States has taken the correct stand on the problem. They will not negotiate with kidnappers. This means that there will be no future kidnappings of Americans because the kidnappers will have a worthless hostage in their hands. What we fear is that if the Abu Sayyaf gets away with their heinous crime, kidnappings will proliferate all over the country. It will be a criminal cottage industry.... Right now, the victims are foreigners. So ordinary criminals end up negotiating with foreign governments as if they were heads of state. It has raised the status of criminals."
"Stop Posturing, Just Do It"
Retired TV newscaster Jun Bautista wrote in his column in the independent Manila Times (9/2): "I think that was a brilliant coup Defense Secretary Orly Mercado pulled over the media...when he revealed the presence of a contingent of U.S. Green Berets in the country for a military exercise. The elite troopers arrived almost at the same time if not before American Jeffrey Schilling was 'abducted.' Had not Mercado's revelation pre-empted the media, you can already imagine some enterprising journalist by-lining a story that American special forces are here to rescue Schilling."
"Foreign Governments Tied Our Hands"
Columnist Willie Ng wrote in the largest-circulation Manila Bulletin (9/2): "From the start the government was weighing the option of staging a lightning raid against the Abu Sayyaf to rescue the hostages. That would be the right thing to do, not spend months haggling over ransoms while the whole world watches the government being humiliated, jerked up and down like a yo-yo by outrageous and irrational demands.... Never has any country in a similar situation been subjected to such powerful foreign pressure to do nothing more than negotiate.... Earlier than the rest, Malaysia made its own deal, making secret payments for the release of its nationals.... After the Malaysians did their thing, it is Libya which has been footing the bill for the release of several Europeans. Why should foreign governments tie our government's hands? In other hostage situations in other countries, foreign intervention is unknown.... Recent history is full of successful raids against terrorists holding passengers hostage in jetliners. You talk the terrorists to death and then you rush them with guns blazing. Much has been said against Libya for its grandstand act in paying the ransom for Europeans. The fact is it is fortunate Libya stepped in with its bagful of dollars. Or the sorry mess created by European intervention would have gone on and on."
"A U.S. Operation Would Be Too Controversial"
Veteran diplomatic reporter Ellen Tordesillas asserted in the independent Malaya (9/1): "It would be too controversial if the Americans would be allowed to stage a special operations against the Abu Sayyaf in Jolo. Leftists groups who kept quiet with the intervention of Libya
would again wave the sovereignty issue in the streets if it comes to the United States."
Columnist Jesus Elbinias noted in the largest-circulation Manila Bulletin (9/1): "After kidnapping an American to add to the number of hostages still being held by them, whom they claim to be a CIA agent, the Abu Sayyaf has now dared the United States to go after them in Sulu. The Americans might just do that or lose face."
Publisher Max Soliven wrote in his column in third-leading Philippine Star (9/1): "President Estrada, act now! Yesterday, a bipartisan sentiment was expressed in Congress for military action on our part to end the five-month long Abu Sayyaf 'crisis', hostages or no hostages. The signal is loud and clear: We've procrastinated far too long."
"Americans Not Easily Threatened"
Former presidential spokesperson Jesus Sison declared in the independent Malaya (9/1): "The Abu Sayyaf may have taken more than it can swallow when it kidnapped an American.... The Americans are not threatened easily. They don't pay ransom for kidnap victims. They are also known for sacrificing a few to save many, including future generations."
"A Scenario To Blame The U.S."
Rigoberto Tiglao wrote in his column in the second-leading Philippine Daily Inquirer (9/1): "My sources are totally wrong when they describe the following chilling scenario. The Abu Sayyaf are not the fools they seem to be in the TV footage. They're satisfied with the ransom payments they got from Libya, Malaysia, the German magazine, and even, as some allege, ABS-CBN, and they know they can't really keep the hostages for long. They've already set up their escape route. With its citizen now being held hostage, the United States would force a military option. The Abu Sayyaf's camps would be assaulted. Some hostages would be able to escape in the confusion but others won't. Who would be blamed for the carnage, especially by the European government? The United States."
"With The U.S. Government Involved, Things Would Get Cracking"
Columnist Teodoro Benigno wrote in the third-leading Philippine Star (9/1): "I am sure of one thing. Once the U.S. government gets into the picture, the ransom payments from Qadhafi will have to stop. Once they stop, what happens? There the dilemma lies. The United States certainly will not pay any ransom for any of the five or six remaining white hostages.... If no more ransom comes, or very little if at all, will the Abu Sayyaf behead the remaining hostages? This looks unlikely because if they do or threaten to do so imminently, they will be up no longer against Filipino troops but American crack commandos, possibly from the U.S. Seventh Fleet.... With the U.S. government involved, things will get cracking."
"After Qadhafi's 'Coup' Now Come The Americans"
Max Soliven wrote in independent, conservative Philippine Star (8/31): "A spokesman of the U.S. State Department announced that America will not pay any ransom nor will the United States release Ramzi Yousef and two other Muslim radical terrorists.... Since both the Yanks and the belligerent Commander Abu Sabaya have both talked themselves into a corner--and neither can back down--will there now be 'fireworks' in Mindanao. How will the Americans
react? If they run true to form, I believe they'll come in like gangbusters.... My reading of the situation...is that...Bill Clinton...can't afford to let the Abus get away with it. This is because Clinton's bet...Al Gore...is in a neck-to-neck fight to the finish with...George W. Bush."
"Hostage Crisis Gains New Dimension"
Emil Jurado commented in independent Manila Standard (8/31): "The Abu Sayyaf hostage crisis has gained new dimensions. This time, it's the kidnapping of an American...and the threat of the Abu Sayyaf bandits to kill him if the United States government would not comply with their demand to exchange him for three international terrorists who bombed the World Trade Center. Good grief, they are challenging and blackmailing the mightiest nation on earth.... This time, the Abu Sayyaf vermin may have just bitten off more than they can chew."
"U.S. Now Has An Excuse To Take On Abu Sayyaf"
Federico Pascual wrote in his column in the independent and widely-circulated Philippine Star (8/31): "The over-confident Abu Sayyaf has committed a big blunder.... The Abu Sayyaf has just given the United Staets, which must be chafing under the collar with Libya's grabbing PR points by bankrolling the release of their European hostages, an excuse to insert itself into the picture. We would not be surprised if the Untied States actually baited that bunch of terrorists into grabbing that black American married to a cousin of an Abu Sayyaf commander with hints that he is a spy of the U.S. Central Intelligence Agency."
"What's Abu Up To?"
Widely-read, independent Malaya contended (8/31): "The Abu Sayyaf has declared war on the United States. Whether Washington will oblige the Abu Sayyaf is not important at this point. For sure it won't pay ransom for its kidnapped citizens. But we doubt it would send the Delta Force to teach the kidnappers a lesson either. All we can do is wait and see how this latest Abu Sayyaf caper will play out. Let's see how the professionals in the counter-terrorism business will proceed. We have had our share of amateurism in the still continuing Sipadan hostage crisis. We sorely need instruction on how to deal with armed lunatics."
"Time To Get The Bastards"
Former deputy press secretary Horacio Paredes exhorted in independent Malaya (8/31): "Attack the bastards and decimate them. Now. To wait before attacking the Abu Sayyaf will not result in any less embarrassment. What it might do is allow us to avoid an additional two demands that they say they will make within three days. That is all that waiting will do us. "
"Next: U.S. Intervention?"
Veteran journalist Amante Bigornia wrote in his column in the independent Manila Times (8/31): "The U.S. State Department has already ruled out both ransom payment and the release of three Arab terrorists from American jails. It seems the only available option is a military operation.... Will the Americans opt to go it alone? The governments of the remaining foreign hostages will naturally want to be consulted since their nationals could be killed in the operation...but the Americans are not likely to sit idly by."
"Cloak And Dagger Stuff"
The editorial of the independent Manila Standard said (8/31): "We can be sure that the U.S. will not stand idly by.... The federal government will not lest this abduction of an American citizen
pass. The Abu Sayyaf...may have...bitten off more than they can chew with this one."
"Abu Sayyaf Ups The Ante"
J.A. de la Cruz wrote in the independent Malaya (8/31): "The Abu Sayyaf gave [the Americans] an opportunity to come in.... The Abu Sayyaf brigands are playing with fire, but the trouble is that they are also invariably opening the floodgates for an even more pronounced and active U.S. presence not only in the resolution of the current hostage crisis but probably the unending saga of brigandry, lawlessness and secession bedevilling Southern Philippines. There is no question that the Americans will now take advantage of the situation to expand their not-too-secret deepening presence in the area."
"New Dimension In The Sulu Crisis"
Veteran journalist Julius Fortuna wrote in the independent Philippine Post (8/31): It does not really matter whether the American hostage is a CIA operative or a plain citizen. To the U.S. government, an abduction of an American implies an assault on the whole American state. This is really an awkward time for the Philippine government which has indicated that it is now open to U.S. involvement in Mindanao to solve the hostage crisis. Manila has no choice but to allow the Americans to come in to check international terrorism. ...The spokesman of the U.S. State Department has called for the unconditional release of the hostages. That is really a warning to everyone. Poor Mindanao, it will again be a battleground."
"Get Out Of The Way"
The editorial of the liberal and independent Today said (8/31): "We urge the government...to step aside and let America deal with this problem directly.... We think either the bandits will release this young American without more ado or we will find out that no American is missing. But if they kill him, the Muslim kidnappers and everything breathing within a 100-mile radius of the last betel nut dropped by an Abu Sayyaf retard will be crackling pig. Let us not, just to placate some shitty nationalist sentiment, compound the problem for the Americans. After all, these Muslim separatists are not Filipinos; they have not only repeatedly renounced their Philippine citizenship, they have been up in arms to deny Philippine sovereignty altogether."
SINGAPORE: "Mindanao Madness"
The pro-government Straits Times said (8/31): "It is becoming clear that the Abu Sayyaf has stumbled upon what it thinks is an unbeatable formula: exploit its psychological advantage over the Philippine authorities by using its international connections to extort money, while drawing attention to its cause for a Muslim Mindanao republic. If the money gets any better, hostage seizures are going to be a habit. And why not, the Abu Sayyaf leadership would calculate. Libya has deep pockets, and intervention serves a higher purpose as it tries to neutralize the ostracism cast upon it by the United States.... Having tasted blood, the Abu Sayyaf knows it will be nothing if it has no foreigners to hold.... The Abu Sayyaf has to be stopped. The negotiating has to get past the easy-does-it phase, with the Abu Sayyaf left in no doubt that outlaws do not prevail. Failing that, the unthinkable may have to be contemplated. The leaders of France and Germany can accept that fire is the ultimate cleanser. America too, but this is not its operation to mount."
THAILAND: "Libyan Attempt To Buy Respect"
The lead editorial of top-circulation, moderately conservative, English-language Bangkok Post commented (9/3): "The payment of ransom is often a bad idea. But it is always a bad idea to
pay ransom without freedom for the hostages. As of late last week, the Abu Sayyaf had freed six Westerners, and still held six others, along with 16 Filipinos. Then, totally predictably, the Abu Sayyaf took another hostage-this time an American, to raise the stakes higher.... So far, (Gadhafi's) attempts to free the Abu Sayyaf hostages have been mostly unsuccessful. They have cost a large amount of money. They have raised, not lowered, the political problems both within the Philippines and abroad. It is questionable whether Colonel Gadhafi deserves world respect no matter what he achieves. The six released hostages and their families are thankful, of course. But let's hold off world praise, respect and rewards for now. The highly publicized mission to Jolo has won freedom for fewer than 25% of the hostages, and the kidnappers are still free, rich and arrogant."
FRANCE: "Washington Caught In The Jolo Trap"
Jean-Jacques Mevel judged in right-of-center Le Figaro (8/31): "The United States is compelled to follow its own principles. Quick to criticize Europe's weakness in the Jolo hostage situation, the Americans must now try to obtain their hostage's freedom without paying a ransom...and without the help of Colonel Qadhafi.... While diplomatic cautiousness dictates that the State Department not assign blame to Europe for this latest kidnaping, the press and anonymous commentators are criticizing Europe's bartering, and the rather curious role played by Qadhafi."
"France Will Pursue Its Normalization With Libya"
Foreign Affairs Minister Hubert Vedrine wrote in right-of-center Le Figaro (8/30): "The normalization process has been separate from the hostage issue, but it can continue all the more thanks to it. African, Arab and Mediterranean nations would like to see Libya reintegrate international institutions because they believe it will consolidate Libya's foreign policy trend.... France, as president of the EU will pursue what has already been accomplished with regards to Libya."
"Qadhafi's Questionable Triumph"
Pierre Rousselin wrote in right-of-center Le Figaro (8/29): "The fact that Libya has found a way to accelerate its return to the community of honorable nations is for French diplomacy the result of a long-standing approach to normalization.... As President of the EU, France must learn to handle relations between Libya and Europe's members...even though Franco-Libyan relations are of a more complex nature than those between Tripoli and the other European nations, because of pending suits against Qadhafi in the UTA crash. Foreign Minister Vedrine makes this clear when he says: 'This normalization process did not start with the Jolo hostages. It started a year and a half ago. And the process will continue.'"
BRITAIN: "Libya Seeks To Refine Its Image"
The independent Financial Times noted (8/31): "Not long ago, Libya was a pariah state run by a quirky and dangerous leader. These days, Colonel Muammer Qadhafi is promoting himself as a mediator in conflicts and using his past links with rebels to help liberate Western hostages in the Philippines.... Col. Qadhafi's surprising makeover is the most visible aspect of Libya's rehabilitation in the international community. But just as important is the growing interest that European companies are showing in the country's business potential, especially because rival U.S. companies are prohibited from investing in Libya under existing U.S. sanctions. European oil executives say that regardless of Libya's ultimate goals, opportunity for oil and gas
investment there is greater because U.S. oil companies are out of the market. And remaining U.S. sanctions on European companies investing in Libya are no longer seen as a serious threat."
ITALY: "He Is A CIA Agent, We Will Cut Off His Head"
Michele Farina reported in centrist, top-circulation Corriere Della Sera (8/30): "The change in prisoners of the Abu Sayyaf' group seems like a tourist village.... The six hostages celebrated at a party in Tripoli... The script has, however, changed. Libya, the enemy of the West, is now the Libya that saves Westerners.... The kidnapped American citizen is accused of being a CIA agent.... The rebels are threatening to cut his head off if three prisoners are not released in the United States.... Among them is Ramzi Yousuf, condemned in connection with the bombing of the World Trade Center in New York."
"Philippines, An American Is Kidnapped"
Marco Lupis commented from Hong Kong in left-leaning, influeuntial La Repubblica (8/30): "The Colonel intends to reap political rewards from his mediation efforts by implementing a PR operation that will return some international acceptability to Libya.... But after the official thanks from Paris and Berlin, Qadhafi got his first cold shower yesterday. The United States criticized the Libyan strategy...because it was 'based on totally surrendering to the terrorists' requests.' And now Libya suggests it play a mediation role for the American prisoner, as well...who, according to the Philippine rebels, is a CIA agent."
"Philippines Rebels Kidnap An American"
Leading conservative, opposition Il Giornale declared (8/30): "The United States is almost alone in continuing to criticize the Libyan regime with regard to its handling of the hostages' case....but France is also embarrassed because it is now forced to deny any secret negotiations with Tripoli over the 'trade-off' that Libya now expects from the French Presidency of the EU."
"Philippine Guerrilla Fighters Scorn Qadhafi"
Claudia Ferrero observed in centrist, influential La Stampa (8/30): "Libya's involvement in the release of the hostages...and the ensuing 'clearance' from France and Germany, are raising some questions. In Paris, official denials are mounting.... Foreign Affairs Minister Vedrine claimed his country has the right to have its 'own vision of the world's organization'...and denied that the money given to the Gadhafi International Foundation for Charity was used to pay the ransom.... Indeed, Vedrine's main concern...is to clear up any doubts about the 'trade-off' Libya expects from the French Presidency of the EU."
GERMANY: "How Deceitful!"
Rafael Seligmann noted in mass-circulation right-of-center Bild Zeitung of Hamburg (8/30): "Libya's dictator Qadhafi is letting himself be celebrated as the liberator of hostages. And it makes our stomach turn. After months of torture, the hostages have to put on white t-shirts and stand around like billboards, promoting the dictator's 'International Foundation For Benevolent Organizations.'... In fact, Qadhafi is a well-known supporter of international terrorism. And the money...paid for the hostage release will finance more terror."
"From Rogue To State Leader"
Karl Grobe wrote in an editorial in left-of-center Frankfurter Rundschau (8/30): "It is not the regime, an undemocratic police state, which has changed in Libya. What has changed is merely the country's image. This is less Qadhafi's problem than that of the governing information system, which follows market laws and obeys the interests of U.S. market leaders. It also follows convenient prejudices and easy-to-grasp catchwords. Research leading to a more complete assessment of Libya was made additionally difficult by high costs, the consequences of the embargo, Libya's fear of espionage, censorship, and simple disinterest. Now, after the good deed, Libya and 'brother Moammar' have become interesting. He is who he was before, but now he is allowed to play in the league of state leaders."
Regina Krieger stated in an editorial in business daily, right-of-center Handelsblatt of Duesseldorf (8/29): "Right on time for the 31st anniversary of Libya's revolution, Muammar al Qadhafi gets what he needs for this day. His calculations have come true. With his million dollar investment he has made himself fashionable in the international community again. This at a time when his country is faced with great economic difficulties. Berlin, Paris, and Brussels must reluctantly take not of so much chutzpah, since they failed with their efforts to achieve the release of the hostages. In November, at the next EU-Mediterranean meeting in Marseille, a self-confident revolutionary leader will now also sit at the negotiating table. The hostage drama has now a foreseeable end, but the helpless feeling remains to be exposed even more to hostage dramas aiming at acquiring money."
"Making A Fool Of Philippine Government"
Right-of-center Frankfurter Neue Presse argued (8/29): "Gangsters are making a fool of the Philippine state. The Libyan accomplices who have nurtured the terrorists for years, are now playing the role of mediators and pay a ransom to the kidnappers which the German government is not allowed to pay. In the case of German hostage Werner Wallert and the other hostages, the German chancellor, the French president, and the Finnish state leader warned the Philippine president against the use of force. They are now expressing their gratitude to the ransom payer Qadhafi. Encouraged by the course of the kidnapping, the rebels will now buy new weapons and take more hostages. And we leave the Philippine state to its fate."
"Libya's Role In Hostage Drama"
P. Durm commented on regional radio stations Westdeutscher Rundfunk of Cologne (8/28) and Norddeutscher Rundfunk of Hamburg (8/28): "It seems grotesque that Chancellor Schroeder officially thanked 'Mr. Qadhafi' for his successful mediation role. 'Mr. Qadhafi' can now expect his million dollar investments in the Philippine hostage bazaar to pay off politically and economically. Qadhafi, who has often been characterized as unpredictable managed to achieve a genius' stroke. 'Mr. Qadhafi' can now expect the Europeans to accept him as a full member in the economic union of Mediterranean states. If this happens, it will according to Qadhafi's calculation, only be a question of time until the United States gives up its unilateral economic boycott. But it could be that Qadhafi's expectations will be wrong in this respect, since, in contrast to the European governments, the United States continues to stick to its enemy image of Qadhafi."
BELGIUM: "Many More Jolos?"
Foreign affairs writer Freddy De Pauw in independent, Catholic De Standaard observed (9/11): "All the promises (of the Philippine government) to invest heavily in the south to create more prosperity were never honored. That explains why it is easy for both the communist and Islamic rebels to find recruits. With all his ransom money, Abu Sayyaf can pay them a good salary. The Philippine authorities claim that Abu Sayyaf is a very local phenomenon and that this group is barely capable of acting outside its territory. Since the attack against the World Trade Center in New York in 1994, the Americans know better. Moreover, as the former sponsors of those Islamic groups during the war in Afghanistan they are familiar with the sponsors of Abu Sayyaf. A hostage affair that started in Malaysia, and in which Libya is playing a key role as a mediator, is anything but a local phenomenon."
"Buying Hostages' Freedom
Middle East affairs writer Baudouin Loos noted in left-of-center Le Soir (8/29): "For a long time, the Libyan regime has helped its 'friends' around the world with suitcases full of petrodollars. That these 'friends' were often African, Asian, European, and Middle East revolutionaries has always been an open secret.... One can't thus be surprised that, for Qadhafi to be fully rehabilitated, an 'independent Libyan foundation'--headed by his son-helps obtain the release of Western hostages by paying a few million dollars--'development aid'--to Muslim rebels."
"An Asian Chechnya?"
Philippe Paquet predicted in independent La Libre Belgique (8/29): "Whatever one calls the abductors--Muslim extremists acting for political reasons or plain gangsters motivated by money--there is no reason why they won't soon repeat such a profitable operation, both diplomatically and financially.... This would be the beginning of a lucrative kidnapping industry in the Chechen style in a region which has been lawless for a long time.... The totally surrealistic comings and goings of the media in the abductors' den in Jolo will certainly have convinced the latter that hostage taking is an extraordinary instrument of manipulation at their disposal."
MALTA: "Perfect Opportunity For Qadhafi's Rehabilitaion"
The editor's opinion column in the English-language, independent weekly Malta Independent observed (9/3): "The reason why Qadhafi chose to pay the Islamic guerrillas in return for the release of the hostages is not because he was particularly interested in the plight of these Westerners, but because it was he perfect opportunity for him to begin rehabilitating himself in the eyes of the West. Will he succed in changing his image and is the West eager to strengthen ties with him? Furthermore, does Qadhafi really want to open up to the world, or is he interested in simply changing his image through such gimmicks as paying for the release of Western hostages? I personally believe that booth the European Union and the United States want to improve ties with Qadhafi. The United States still has no diplomatic ties with Tripoli and the establishment of such links depends on the outcome of the Lockerbie trial. However, I would imagine that it is realistic to assume that some time in the near future, Libya and the United States will exchange ambassadors. There are, after all, many commercial considerations, which I will dwell on later. There is no doubt that the United Nations sanctions against Libya in response to the Lockerbie bombing, imposed in 1992 and suspended last year, did have a severe effect on Libya. Perhaps that is why Libya decided to hand over the two Lockerbie bomb suspects.... Today, Qadhafi, who seems to be still firmly in charge of his country, has no option but to change. The international situation has changed. The world's political and economic climate has changed and Libya has eventually to change with it. If
helping to release Western hostages is Qadhafi's way of changing, so be it."
ZIMBABWE: "West Indebted To Qadhafi"
The government-owned Chronicle declared (8/30): "Qadhafi has been variously described as a maverick, dangerous extremist, hated terrorist, and dictator. But, love him or not, his efforts in securing the release of 6 of the 12 foreign hostages held by Abu Sayyaf in a southern Filipino jungle for the last five months have left the western world indebted to his checkbook diplomacy, if not political acumen... The Libyan leader dispatched envoys...where his colleagues in the immediate sub-region had failed, and this despite no Libyan national being among the hostages.... However wary some might be of the colonel's good intentions, it is politic to take his actions at face value--at least for now.... We invite the Western powers to join us in saluting Qadhafi, while keeping a close watch on future developments."
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