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Grim deaths at hands of Philippine terrorists



Published: Wed, June 13, 2001 @ 12:00 a.m.



As if the world does not have enough trouble with fanatical extremist groups like the Taliban in Afghanistan, it must also contend with the Abu Sayyaf group in the Philippines which has reportedly beheaded an American because Manila refuses to accede to its demands.

If the terrorist tactics of Abu Sayyaf -- its name means "bearer of the sword" -- sound familiar, it should come as no surprise that this Islamic fundamentalist group is connected to Osama bin Ladin and Ramzi Yousef, who was convicted of organizing the 1993 bombing of the World Trade Center in New York, eight years ago.

Abu Sayyaf is calling for the establishment of an Iranian-style Islamic state in Mindanao, a southern Philippine island largely populated by Muslims.

Democracy: We wonder how many Philippine Muslims would be willing to trade the democracy of the Philippines for the rigid theocracy of those who oppose freedom.

If the Abu Sayyaf cause were so popular, it would hardly need to resort to bombings, kidnapping, extortion and assassination. But in fact, it has only a few rabid followers -- some 200 fighters recruited from the universities and high schools of Middle Eastern nations where they were indoctrinated in their extremist ideology.

In its latest atrocity, the group said it had beheaded Guillermo Sobero, 40, a tourist from Corona, Calif., one of three Americans taken hostage in May at a southern beach resort. Although Sobero's body has not been found, searchers did find two other torsos -- neither American -- one of whom was a Philippine who had volunteered to negotiate with the terrorists.

Groups like Abu Sayyaf prefer to characterize themselves as "rebels" rather than violent radicals. But "rebel" is far too mild a term. They are, in fact, ideologically driven criminals who have warped religion to their own ends and would similarly distort government.

Philippine President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo has vowed to crush the group. There can be no negotiation with terror. And extremist groups everywhere must have no doubt that the lives of Americans are not bargaining chips.




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