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November Today in Terrorism

November 15, 2013: Islamists kidnap and kill tourists in Malaysia

On November 15, 2013 gunmen abducted a Taiwanese woman and her husband holidaying in Malaysia and handed them to the Abu Sayyaf Group.

POM POM ISLAND, MALAYSIA – We all welcome a holiday, especially on a beach, but terrorists realise that too.

This may be stating the blatantly obvious but terrorism knows no borders. This phrase means several things to my mind. Firstly, terrorism occurs all over the place – yes, more often in some countries than others (Afghanistan, Nigeria, Iraq…) but no country is immune from this scourge. Secondly, terrorist groups do not recognise international borders as a rule. Many are active simultaneously in many different parts of the world.

Some groups seek to actually establish a state-like structure themselves. Islamic State (ISIS) was a prime example. Its creation of the so-called ‘Caliphate‘ in parts of Iraq and Syria beginning in 2014 was an attempt to concretely make a politico-geographical entity that it would control. That it did not last long is not important: it was for a time an actual ‘state‘.

We are the Islamic STATE – but we don’t have garbage collection yet (Photo: thierry ehrmann on flickr CC BY 2.0)

One of the scarier aspects of terrorist attacks is when they occur close to, but not in, areas known to be havens for extremist groups. Parts of the South China Sea are a good example. The Philippines has long suffered from several organisations which are all jihadi in scope: neighbouring Malaysia has not. That does not mean the latter cannot be targeted by terrorists in the former.

On this day in 2013

Gunmen abducted a Taiwanese woman and her husband who were holidaying at a secluded resort on Pom Pom island in Malaysia‚Äôs Sabah state, near the Philippines’ island of Jolo. He was killed during the kidnaping and she was handed over to Abu Sayyaf Group (ASG) terrorists. She was freed in the southern Philippines in December of that same year.

She is in good condition.

Provincial military commander, Colonel Jose Cenabre

ASG also seized a number of foreign as well as Filipino hostages on Jolo, including two European birdwatchers and a Japanese treasure hunter. Kidnaping is a favourite tactic of the organisation. Which goes to show that even if you think you are on vacation in an idyllic spot you have to be mindful.

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By Phil Gurski

Phil Gurski is the President and CEO of Borealis Threat and Risk Consulting Ltd. Phil is a 32-year veteran of CSE and CSIS and the author of six books on terrorism.

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