PETALING JAYA - It is unlikely the Abu Sayyaf militant group is involved in the kidnapping of a Chinese tourist and a Filipina resort worker in Sabah, said an expert in Philippine conflicts.
Dr Shamsuddin L. Taya of Mindanao said ordinary gangsters were probably behind the kidnapping but they were using the notoriety of the Abu Sayyaf to facilitate the ransom negotiations.
"As the Abu Sayyaf no longer has a prominent leader, it is easier for any gangster group to claim link to the outfit," he said.
Dr Shamsuddin, a visiting senior lecturer at Universiti Utara Malaysia, said this in response to reports claiming that the Abu Sayyaf may be responsible for the abduction of Filipina Marcy Dayawan, 40, and Chinese tourist Gao Huayun, 29, at the Singamata Reef Resort, near Semporna, on Wednesday night.
Dr Shamsuddin said gangsters claiming to be members of Abu Sayyaf were in it either for monetary gain or to serve a political purpose.
He said there was also a possibility the abduction occurred because certain quarters were unhappy with Malaysia for brokering the peace agreement between the Philippine government and the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF).
Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF) leader Nur Misuari was among those who were not happy with the peace accord, he said.
"Perhaps, there is a connection, I don't know. But there was also talk about Nur Misuari and the Sulu invasion in Sabah last year," he said.
Although the Abu Sayyaf is a splinter group of the MNLF, certain quarters use both organisations to suit their agenda.
"They claim to be Abu Sayyaf members when they commit crime for money and they use MNLF for political purposes," he said.
The possibility of the gangsters working in cahoots with corrupt Filipino police and military personnel for a fast buck should also not be discounted, he said.
"And every time there is a clampdown on purported Abu Sayyaf followers, some officials get a promotion," he said.
Dr Shamsuddin also said the United States would benefit from keeping the so-called notorious Abu Sayyaf group "alive" to justify the return of their naval base in the region.