2 German captives freed in Sulu
ZAMBOANGA CITY, Philippines—The Abu Sayyaf group last Friday night released to government negotiators two German hostages they have been holding since April after full payment of the P250-million ransom demanded by the extremists.
Viktor Stefan Okonek and Henrite Dielen were freed at 8:45 p.m. Friday in a remote village in Patikul town in Sulu, said Abu Rami, spokesman of the Abu Sayyaf.
Rami said ransom was paid in full, “walang labis, walang kulang (nothing more, nothing less).”
Armed Forces of the Philippines Chief of Staff General Gregorio Catapang Jr. confirmed the release in a text message to INQUIRER.net, but did not give details.
“Yes they are now in Camp Bautista for transport to Camp Navarro,” Catapang said.
Camp Bautista is the 2nd Marine Brigade Headquarters based in Sulu while Camp Navarro is the headquarters of the Western Mindanao Command in Zamboanga City.
They will be brought to Zamboanga City through a naval vessel, he said.
Catapang said the police “were able to rescue them” at 8:50 p.m. and brought to the brigade headquarters at 9:20 p.m.
The AFP chief did not say if indeed ransom was paid.
“The naval clinic and bed facilities are being prepared while waiting for immediate flight to Manila,” Catapang said.
Okonek, 71, and Dielen, 55, were seized by the Abu Sayyaf last April from their yacht in waters off Palawan while en route to Sabah.
Abu Sayyaf had threatened to kill Okonek this Friday if Germany would ignore the ransom demand. It also wanted Berlin to withdraw support for the multi-nation bombing campaign against the Islamic State group in Iraq and Syria.
The German government has been tightlipped about the group’s ransom requests and threats, but on Friday confirmed that it had sent an envoy who arrived in the country Thursday.
A German foreign ministry spokesman said crisis team officer Ruediger Koenig had been sent by Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier.
The Abu Sayyaf is a loose band of several hundred Islamic militants originally organized with Al-Qaeda funding in the 1990s.
The group has been blamed for the Philippines’ worst terrorist attacks, including kidnappings, abductions and beheadings of foreign and local hostages.
It is believed to be currently holding several other hostages, including two European birdwatchers abducted in February 2012.
Since July, the Abu Sayyaf has uploaded videos online proclaiming its allegiance to the Islamic State group, which has taken control of large parts of Iraq and Syria. With Agence France-Presse