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27 September 2015, Philippines, Davao del Norte September 29, 2015
On 22 September 2015, the Dispatch Times reported that approximately 11 men assailed the Holiday Oceanview Samal Resort in Davao del Norte province (Samal Island) in the Philippines, and kidnapped several people.
The Associated Press describes the venue as an “upscale resort complex” and a top rated marina. The resort’s website and related videos show a marina where patrons can dock 50-foot sailboats, motorboats, and yachts, and then engage in tourist activities.
The attackers, armed with pistols and assault rifles, arrived on two boats referred to as bancas (motorized outrigger boats) on Monday night, 21 September, at 11:23 p.m. They overpowered the resort’s security guards and seized four people.
The attackers tried to abduct an American and his Japanese wife from their yacht, but the two broke free and escaped by diving into the water.
Philippine authorities said the attackers spoke English, Visaya, and Tagalog. Moreover, they appeared to know exactly who to kidnap. The indication is that they might have had intelligence on their victims well beforehand.
The kidnapping victims are:
John Ridsdel (Canada)
Robert Hall (Canada)
Marithes “Tess” Flor (Philippines)
Kjartan Sekkingstad (Norway and Holiday Oceanview manager)
The Dispatch Times notes that the Holiday Oceanview is just 10 minutes from Pearl Farm, a resort that Abu Sayyaf Group (ASG) kidnappers attacked on 22 May 2001. There have been multiple kidnappings by Philippine-based groups since then at resorts and hotels throughout this and adjacent areas.
Purveyors of the Holiday Oceanview frequently touted their venue as a safe and secure location, immune from the nearby violence on Mindanao.
The AP reports that Ridsdel is the former chief operating officer of TVI Resource Development Philippines Inc., a mining company that is a subsidiary of TVI Pacific, a Canada-based company. While the AP says that Ridsdel works as a consultant to TVI, his Linkedin page says he is President at TVI Minerals Processing Inc. To date, Philippine authorities are not linking Ridsdel’s employment to his kidnapping.
CNN on 27 September quoted Davao City Mayor Rodrigo Duterte as saying intelligence said the kidnappers belonged to the ASG, and that they had taken their victims to Sulu. The Philippine Star quoted military sources that said this intelligence was not yet confirmed. Other sources earlier said that the victims had been taken to Davao Oriental province.
At present, authorities believe that the ASG faction that carried out this operation is the “Tanum group” from Patikul. Tanum is a village in Patikul. Patikul is a municipality/town of about 42,000 people in Sulu. It is also reportedly an ASG stronghold.
This area is also inside the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (ARMM.) The ARMM is composed of five provinces: Lanao del Sur, Basilan (minus Isabela City,) Maguindanao, Tawi-Tawi, and Sulu. The ARMM is a semi-autonomous region where ethnic Moros/Muslims can govern most of their own affairs according to Moro traditions and sharia law. It is also home to scores of insurgent, terrorist, and criminal groups such as the Moro National Liberation Front, the Moro Islamic Liberation Front, the Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters, and the ASG. The communist New Peoples’ Army (NPA) also operates there.
While Mindanao is a proven hotbed of Islamist jihadi and ethno-nationalist radicalism and violence, it should be noted that the NPA and scores of other militant and criminal groups operate in other parts of the Philippines as well.
At any rate, intelligence indicates that once the kidnappers left the Holiday Oceanview in their bancas, they later transferred to a white speedboat and went to Barangay Kaunayan in Sulu. As of this posting, it is not clear where the victims are being held.
From start to finish, the whole kidnapping operation took 13 hours.
This kidnapping, technically an amphibious kidnapping raid, demonstrates that resorts and hotels in and around insurgency and terrorism-prone areas are not immune to violence, even though they might not have experienced it before. Terrorists and insurgents thrive in ungoverned spaces, and they prefer to attack soft targets. The level of violence in Mindanao demonstrates that this region of the Philippines is poorly governed, and hotels and resorts located in this area are indeed soft targets. That fact that this resort had never been attacked before is meaningless in a security sense. Insurgency and terrorism zones sometimes only experience a few attacks a month over a wide ranging area, and this can cause businesses and some government officials to proclaim that an area is peaceful when the opposite is true. Simply put, complacency in these areas is irresponsible, and it can result in people getting kidnapped and killed.
Additionally, as previously stated, since the early 2000s, there have been scores of similar kidnappings throughout this region ranging from Mindanao’s littorals all the way to Sabah, Malaysia. While these operations happen sporadically, they clearly demonstrate that this region is not secure, and increased private and government security is necessary to remedy the threat. Any hotel or resort in this area that is not prepared to thwart kidnapping raids is ignoring demonstrated threat behavior, intermittent though it may be.
Lastly, the fact that the ASG is freely launching kidnapping raids out of the ARMM and then holding hostages inside this zone beyond the reach of any authorities demonstrates that the ARMM serves as a base area for Islamist jihadist radicals. This is not conducive to the safety and security of the Philippines, its neighbors, or the regional hotel and resort industry.
Sources and further reading:
“Kidnapping victims now in Sulu, says Duterte,” CNN, 27 September 2015.
“Gunman Abducts Foreign Tourists From Resort In Southern Philippines,” Dispatch Times, 22 September 2015.
“Gunmen abduct 3 foreigners, Filipino from Philippine resort,” Associated Press, 22 September 2015.
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