Kidnapped Europeans now with Abu Sayyaf in Sulu

Maria A. Ressa
Intelligence officials say the kidnapped Europeans were brought to Abu Sayyaf leader Yasser Igasan

TURNED OVER. Intelligence sources tell Rappler, Dutch Ewold Horn, 52, and Swiss Lorenzo Vinciguerra, 47, have been handed over to the Abu Sayyaf Group (ASG) in Sulu. (File photo courtesy of Tawi-Tawi PNP)

MANILA, Philippines – The investigations into the kidnapping of Dutch Ewold Horn, 52, and Swiss Lorenzo Vinciguerra, 47, on February 3 are bringing new leads, intelligence sources told Rappler.

Initially, investigators thought a local dispute led to the kidnapping of the Europeans. They had been bird-watching for 4 days in Tawi-Tawi before they were kidnapped by armed men now believed to be former members of the Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF), according to an intelligence official.  

The MNLF was the Philippines’ largest Muslim separatist group until it signed a peace agreement with the government in 1996.  Many former members joined the Armed Forces of the Philippines, but many hard-liners joined the Abu Sayyaf.

Sources told Rappler that the Europeans were brought to Abu Sayyaf leader Yasser Igasan in Sulu. Their transfer from Tawi-Tawi to Patikul, Sulu was allegedly coordinated by MNLF commander Tahil Sali and Abu Sayyaf leader Radullan Sahiron.

Another intelligence source confirmed the 2 Europeans are now in Sulu and that an Abu Sayyaf member is now looking to negotiate their release.

Cottage industry

The Abu Sayyaf has turned kidnapping-for-ransom into a cottage industry.  Handing hostages to larger, better armed groups is a common practice.  Larger groups can better protect and evade authorities. All involved then get a cut of the ransom, according to members of the Abu Sayyaf.

There have been 4 waves in the Abu Sayyaf’s evolution, alternating between terrorism and crime.  

It was formed and funded in the early 90’s by a splinter group from the MNLF aided by the brother-in-law of Osama bin Laden and trained by agents of Al-Qaeda (1991-1998).  

The second wave happened after the death of its founder, Abdurajak Janjalani, and ran from 1998 till 2002.  

Jemaah Islamiyah helped reorient the group towards terrorism again during its third wave of evolution between 2002 to 2008.  

During that time, the Abu Sayyaf carried out the region’s worst maritime terrorist attack, the Superferry bombing in 2004. A year later, it carried out near-simultaneous, coordinated attacks, including one in Manila, on Valentine’s day.  

Finally, the fourth wave began in 2008 with the kidnapping of an ABS-CBN news team, signalling the degeneration of the Abu Sayyaf back into kidnapping for ransom. That was followed 6 months later by the kidnapping of members of the International Committee of the Red Cross.  

The kidnappings have continued since then. –

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Maria A. Ressa

Maria Ressa has been a journalist in Asia for nearly 35 years. As Rappler's co-founder, executive editor and CEO, she has endured constant political harassment and arrests by the Duterte government. For her courage and work on disinformation and 'fake news,' Maria was named Time Magazine’s 2018 Person of the Year, was among its 100 Most Influential People of 2019, and has also been named one of Time's Most Influential Women of the Century. She was also part of BBC's 100 most inspiring and influential women of 2019 and Prospect magazine's world's top 50 thinkers, and has won many awards for her contributions to journalism and human rights. Before founding Rappler, Maria focused on investigating terrorism in Southeast Asia. She opened and ran CNN's Manila Bureau for nearly a decade before opening the network's Jakarta Bureau, which she ran from 1995 to 2005. She wrote Seeds of Terror: An Eyewitness Account of al-Qaeda’s Newest Center of Operations in Southeast Asia and From Bin Laden to Facebook: 10 Days of Abduction, 10 Years of Terrorism.