Playing Hardball on Abu Sayyaf Kidnapping

The grim announcement made via satellite phone to a Filipino radio station today was just another reminder that the Abu Sayyaf, though a comparatively young militant group, is focused on maintaining a high profile.

In a chilling phone call made to Radio Mindanao Network today, rebel spokesman Abu Sabaya claimed to have beheaded Guillermo Sobero, one of three U.S. citizens it took hostage last month.

The direct reason, said Sabaya, was that the Filipino government "wants to outsmart us."

And the island nation's new president Gloria Macapagal Arroyo would not deny such a claim. After a dismal decadelong record of trying to curb the Islamic separatist group, Filipino authorities have been playing hardball, asserting the kidnappers would not get a ransom this time.

Gadhafi Makes a Dollar Deal

Arroyo appears to have ruled out an approach used last year when Libyan leader Moammar Gadhafi became involved in a multimillion-dollar deal which saw six Westerners freed.

The six were part of a group taken last April, whose release eventually involved $25 million in "development aid" from Libya. The German newsmagazine Der Spiegel also paid about $5.5 million for the release of one of its reporters captured by the gang.

The French, German and Finnish governments sent emissaries to the Libyan capital, Tripoli, to thank Gadhafi and his son, Seif al-Islam, profusely for the successful "liberations." This enabled the Libyan leader to reinforce his campaign for Western recognition and the lifting of sanctions imposed on him for supporting terrorism.

No Pay for Another Abduction

Last September, Abu Sayyaf captured U.S. citizen Jeffrey Schilling, a Muslim convert from Oakland, Calif.

The Philippines army rescued Schilling earlier this year, without any apparent ransom payments being made.

The Abu Sayyaf — operating in the Philippines since 1990 — says it is fighting for an Islamic state in the island country.

Under the leadership of one of its original founders, Gadhafi Janjalani, the group has been involved in many kidnappings and acts of violence against Christian farmers and priests.

Janjalani is believed to have been given his name in recognition of Moammar Gadhafi's frequent involvement in Filipino affairs since the 1970s.

Sources in Manila say the Abu Sayyaf has used ransom money to stock up on arms, ammunition and supplies, including fast speedboats of the type used in the latest kidnapping.

These can easily outrun the older Philippine navy patrol boats.

No political or ransom demands have been publicly declared for the three Americans and 17 others kidnapped from a resort island on May 27.

ABCNEWS' John Cooley contributed to this report.

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