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Icon representing Maritime Information Warfare Conference 2019 -London -November 18-19
Maritime Information Warfare Conference 2019 -London -November 18-19

November 18th 2019
Icon representing CYPnaval Conference - October 2nd - Cyprus
CYPnaval Conference - October 2nd - Cyprus

October 2nd 2019
Icon representing CSOA First Response Report: Iran Seizes British Tanker
CSOA First Response Report: Iran Seizes British Tanker

July 20th 2019

Abu Sayyaf: The thorn in shipping's side

March 10th 2017
While the world’s media still talk in terms of Somali piracy, few western outlets have focussed on the Sulu and Celebes Sea regions and the very real problems that Islamic State affiliates, the Abu Sayyaf Group (ASG) continue to cause.

This changed in February, sadly, with the news that ASG had made good on their promise to murder German hostage, Jurgen Kantner. The terror group turned kidnap for ransom criminals executed Mr Kantner brutally, beheading him on video. The German citizen was 70 years old at the time of his murder.

Kantner had been abducted from his yacht in November last year while his partner was allegedly raped and murdered by ASG. The pair were seasoned sailors and had even survived being captured by Somali pirates. Sadly, their luck ran out off the Philippines.

While President Duterte has certainly talked tough about tackling ASG, the regional naval forces have yet to frankly get their acts together. While a recognised sea lane now exists, approaches on merchant ships have increased in recent weeks, with the Vietnamese ship, Giang Hai, attacked in February. That incident saw one crewman murdered and six others kidnapped. This week, the Phu An 268 was approached by ASG pirates in a high speed boat but managed to evade attack, seeking protection instead from Malaysian authorities.

The activities of ASG have also shut down trade by sea between the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao to local islands in the region.

In the meantime, the Armed Forces of the Philippines is doing what they can on land to combat the threat posed by the Islamic terror group. However, it remains insufficient in the eyes of many analysts. While ASG talk like Daesh, they behave more like Nigerian pirates. Kidnapping non-Filipino crew and holding them for ransom has proven to be an extremely lucrative practice for the group and, given their brutality and success, it seems highly unlikely that they will fade away into the jungle forever, despite the best efforts of the Philippines’ government.

As usual, the shipping industry is left to count the cost. While the attacks were against small fishing vessels, the merchant marine could, to an extent, ignore the threat. Now, however, the industry needs to both recognise the serious danger and ensure that all vessels impose strict BMP4 adherence when transiting the region.