Wednesday, March 31, 2004

Ribbon Cutting Ceremony

Dean Jorge Bocobo at Philippine Commentary has put together an impressive chronology of what it is like to be an American at the tender mercies of the Abu Sayaf, an Islamist group affiliated with the Al Qaeda. It also illustrates why the Belmont Club believes that 'punishment' attacks by Al Qaeda are wasted on countries like the Philippines. Whatever happens to Americans goes double for the locals, and any attempts by Robert Fisk, the BBC or any other agency to convince the islanders of the benignity of the Jihadis will be met, not with outrage, but by rolling-on-the-ground, knee-slapping, uncontrollable laughter. Current polls show that 90% of the Filipinos support the US War on Terror. In the end, American Guillermo Sobero was executed in a bizarre ritual called a Ribbon Cutting Ceremony, described below.

May 27, 2001 - Twenty people, the majority of them holidaymakers, are seized from the tourist resort of Dos Palmas on the island of Palawan, the Philippines. Among those seized are three Americans and 17 Filipinos.

May 28, 2001 - The Muslim separatist Abu Sayyaf group claims responsibility for the abduction. President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo declares an "all out war" against Abu Sayyaf and rules out any negotiations with the extremist group.

May 29, 2001 - The Philippine government imposes an indefinite news blackout on the crisis.

May 30, 2001 - The United States refuses to pay a ransom to free the three American hostages.

June 1, 2001- Abu Sayyaf claims two hostages have been killed in an exchange of gunfire with government military troops. Philippine officials are unable to confirm the report. The group also threatens a "mass execution" if gunfire continues to be exchanged.

June 2, 2001 - More hostages are kidnapped from a hospital building in Lamitan.

June 3, 2001 - Four hostages, including an 8-year-old boy, manage to escape from their captors. Reports emerge of five other hostages who had also escaped.

June 4, 2001 - Philippine police find the bodies of two Filipino hostages. One of the bodies had been beheaded and the other in a state of decomposition.

June 5, 2001 - Villagers report sightings of the hostages lashed together with a rope being dragged by their captors through the jungle near Tuburan town in Basilan. Two Filipino soldiers die in clashes.

June 6, 2001 - Abu Sayyaf claims one of the American hostages, Martin Burnham, was shot in the back three days ago by the Filipino military during ongoing clashes. The militants threaten to behead the U.S. hostages unless two Malaysian negotiators are appointed.

June 7, 2001 - Abu Sayyaf says it will talk to the Philippine government but only if Manila halts its military pursuit of the group.

June 11, 2001 - Abu Sayyaf threaten to kill at least one of the American hostages at midday unless the government calls off its military offensive against the group.

The militant group takes another 15 captives in an attack on the town of Lantawan, near the capital of Basilan, including two 12-year-old children. Minutes before noon, the Philippine government announces it will accept the group's demands to negotiate with Sairin Karno, former Malaysian senator.

June 12, 2001 - Abu Sayyaf claims to have beheaded an American hostage, Guillermo Sobero.

June 13, 2001 - Filipino troops find two headless corpses but say neither of them is the body of American hostage, Guillermo Sobero. The bodies are believed to be that of two Filipino men who had been negotiating with the Abu Sayyaf. President Arroyo says she will negotiate with Abu Sayyaf kidnappers provided they release all their hostages.

June 15, 2001 - The Philippines military continues to cast doubt over the Abu Sayyaf's claim that it has beheaded Sobero.

June 16, 2001 - Three Filipino hostages are released.

June 17, 2001 -President Arroyo says she will visit the Abu Sayyaf stronghold in the southern island province of Basilan in an effort to bolster civilian support among residents.

June 18, 2001 - President Arroyo visits Basilan and says she will not offer any ransom. Military officials say they believe that U.S. hostage Guillermo Sobero has been killed.

June 22, 2001 - Three severed heads are found. They are reported to belong to Philippine soldiers.

June 23, 2001 - Two headless bodies have been identified as belonging to Filipino plantation workers kidnapped earlier in June.

June 25, 2001 - The military clashes with Abu Sayyaf troops with a spokesman of the group airing their demand for a Malaysian businessman to mediate the hostage crisis. Malaysia refuses to get involved.

June 28, 2001 - Philippine security officials say they have captured one senior member of the Abu Sayyaf guerilla group and a second who was allegedly on a mission to set up terrorist operations in Manila.

July 3, 2001 - Two Filipino hostages freed by Abu Sayyaf gunmen in the southern Philippines say they have seen two of the three American hostages but not Sobero, the believed to be beheaded hostage.

July 6, 2001 - Villagers report seeing several hostages and their Muslim guerilla captors on Basilan Island.

July 9, 2001 - Police arrest Abu Sayyaf top leader, "Commander Global", along with three other members of the group.

According to Dubai News:

American hostage Guillermo Sobero was beheaded by the Abu Sayyaf in a macabre ceremony called 'ribbon-cutting', according to a source close to the hostage takers. The incident allegedly took place in the town of Tuburan, in Basilan, southern Philippines on June 11. "The beheading ceremony was mentioned by Abu Sayyaf leader Khadafi Janjalani in a letter sent recently through a freed hostage to the presidential palace," said Hector Janjalani, Khadafi's younger brother, who has been imprisoned in Quezon City since last year. "The ribbon cutting ceremony is a term often used by the group for the beheading of hostages," explained the younger Janjalani. Armed Forces Spokesman Brig. Gen. Edilberto Adan said the government has tasked volunteers and local government officials with locating Sobero's headless corpse.