Abu hostage pleads for life
The government on Wednesday said its no-ransom policy remains after a German hostage appeared in a video saying Abu Sayyaf militants were threatening to behead him in less than two weeks if they did not receive a payoff.
Jurgen Gustav Kantner, who also was kidnapped by Somali pirates years ago, tearfully spoke about the militants’ threat and the Feb. 26 ransom deadline in a video circulated on Tuesday by the SITE Intelligence Group, which monitors jihadi websites.
In the two-minute video, Kantner sits in front of four masked gunmen, including one aiming what appears to be a sickle at him, as he speaks in German in a clearing with thick foliage in the background. He sports a beard and was made to wear an orange shirt.
Kanter said the militants were demanding a P30-million ransom payment or he would be executed on Feb. 26 at 3 p.m.
Col. Cirilito Sobejana, a military commander in Sulu province where the German and other hostages are believed being held in jungle encampments, discouraged ransom payment to the militants “because it will build up their capability further.”
Presidential spokesperson Ernesto Abella said on Wednesday the government “stands firm on our no-ransom policy.”
Abella said the Armed Forces of the Philippines has been directed “to continue and intensify its military operations” against the militants.
President Rodrigo Duterte’s peace adviser, Jesus Dureza, said he “will never stop appealing to the captors to spare the lives of those innocent victims for the sake of their families and loved ones.”
The military reported in November that an Abu Sayyaf spokesman, Muamar Askali, claimed the militants had kidnapped Kantner and killed a woman sailing with him off neighboring Malaysia’s Sabah state.
Villagers reported finding a dead woman lying beside a shotgun on board a light blue yacht with the German flag and marked “Rockall” off Laparan Island in Sulu, the military said. The predominantly Muslim province is where ransom-seeking militants have held many hostages in jungle encampments.
Troops later took the woman’s body and the yacht, the military said.
The Abu Sayyaf, which the U.S. and the Philippines consider a terrorist organization, is holding at least 27 mostly foreign captives and local hostages.
Abu Sayyaf and allied gunmen had committed many attacks at sea despite efforts by the Philippines, Malaysia and Indonesia to jointly shore up security along their busy sea border. Indonesians, Malaysians, Vietnamese crewmen had been kidnapped from tugboats, fishing boats and cargo ships in the past months and are believed to be held separately in the jungles of Sulu.
Last year, the Abu Sayyaf beheaded two Canadian men after separate ransom deadlines lapsed, prompting the military to begin an offensive against the militants.—LEILA B. SALAVERRIA, AP
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