2 missing Germans held by Abu Sayyaf, police say
ZAMBOANGA CITY, Philippines—Sulu police have confirmed that German nationals doctor Stefan Victor Okonek and Henrite Dielen are being held captive by the Abu Sayyaf in Indanan town.
Senior Supt. Abraham Orbita, Sulu provincial police chief, in a phone interview with the Inquirer, confirmed the abduction after a photo of the Germans in the company of Filipino gunmen surfaced on Facebook.
“Yes, it’s confirmed that they are being held hostage by the Abu Sayyaf group and all we can do now is to locate and monitor their movements,” Orbita said on Wednesday.
He said the group holding Okonek, 74, and Dielen, 42, was headed by a certain Alhabshi Misaya who operates in Indanan.
Shared on Facebook
In the undated photo taken from an undisclosed location, the Germans were shown holding the German flag. They were flanked by about a dozen Abu Sayyaf gunmen in scarves.
It was not clear who took the photo in which Dielen was seen wearing a purple long-sleeve shirt and Okonek in gray shirt, but it was being shared on Facebook.
Orbita said the photo that the authorities had also come across was posted on the Facebook account of a certain Ayman Mat. But a check by the Inquirer showed that the Facebook user was based in Kuwait.
“That photo is one of the several pictures and videos we know of, which are being spread around,” Orbita said.
An online search for a video of the German couple in Abu Sayyaf captivity has not yielded positive result as of Friday.
He said authorities believed that the Abu Sayyaf had spread the video and the photos.
While Orbita confirmed that the photo on Facebook was authentic and that the Abu Sayyaf was holding the couple, a military official said he was not aware of it.
Maj. Gen. Martin Pinto, commander of the 2nd Marine Brigade in Sulu province, said that “as far as [the military was] concerned, we don’t have any information on that.”
Pinto said the Inquirer might be able to “extract data” from police or the Philippine National Police Antikidnapping Group (AKG).
Chief Supt. Noel de los Reyes, chief of police in the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (ARMM), said the surfacing of the video and the photos could be an effort by the Abu Sayyaf to cash in on the German nationals.
But he said the AKG would be the most appropriate unit to confirm if the Germans were indeed in Sulu.
Okonek and Dielen were conducting scientific research off Palawan province when they disappeared in April.
Since then, there were already suspicions that they had been abducted and that the Abu Sayyaf was behind their disappearance.
The first to confirm the presence of the Germans in Sulu was peace advocate Octavio Dinampo in May.
Dinampo, a former Abu Sayyaf captive, said the Abu Sayyaf faction under Radulan Sahiron was holding the two foreigners.
“These two Germans were brought to Patikul by Ambrin Absara and Muammar Askali on a [speedboat] owned by Idang Susukan,” Dinampo said, quoting his sources on the ground.
Dinampo also said the two Germans were being kept with European bird watchers Lorenzo Vinciguerra and Ewold Horn.
Last month, freed Abu Sayyaf captive Remigio Linggayan confirmed that he had spent time with Okonek, Dielen, Horn and Vinciguerra while also in captivity in Sulu.
He said the Abu Sayyaf gunmen who had held him and construction worker Joselito Gonzales since June 5 treated all the captives humanely. “We ate what they ate and they also treated us well,” Linggayan said in the vernacular. Julie Alipala, Inquirer Mindanao
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