Philippine militants demand millions for foreign hostages
November 04 2015 09:10 AM


AFP/ Manila

Philippine militants are demanding one billion pesos ($21 million) each for the release of two Canadians and a Norwegian kidnapped six weeks ago, according to a new video of the captives.

In the video released by the US-based jihadist monitor SITE on Tuesday, the masked captors identified themselves as members of the Abu Sayyaf, a US-listed terrorist group notorious for kidnappings and deadly bomb attacks.

Canadian tourists John Ridsdel and Robert Hall, Norwegian resort manager Kjartan Sekkingstad and Filipina Marites Flor were seized from yachts at a marina in the southern Philippines on September 21.

Philippine authorities have said they do not know where the hostages are being held. But security analysts say they are likely on Jolo island, the Abu Sayyaf's stronghold about 1,000 kilometres (600 miles) south of Manila.

In the SITE video, the three foreigners all said they were being ransomed off for one billion pesos each. They were speaking in a jungle setting, surrounded by heavily armed men.

Flor, who is Hall's girlfriend, did not speak.

Founded in the early 1990s with seed money from Al-Qaeda chief Osama bin Laden, the Abu Sayyaf gained international notoriety for kidnapping dozens of foreign tourists for ransom in the early 2000s.

The group has also been blamed for the country's worst terrorist attacks, including the bombing of a ferry off Manila Bay in 2004 that killed more than 100 people.

It is believed to have just a few hundred gunmen, but thrives in lawless sections of the southern Philippines where rebels have for decades fought for independence or autonomy.

The Abu Sayyaf is known to be holding three other foreigners -- two Malaysians and a Dutch man, according to the military.

An Italian ex-priest, Rolando del Torchio, was also abducted from his pizza restaurant in the southern port city of Dipolog last month.

The Abu Sayyaf is widely believed to be holding him, but authorities have not confirmed this.

And a 74-year-old South Korean kidnapped in January was found dead on Jolo at the weekend. The military said the Abu Sayyaf abandoned the hostage after he died from a "severe illness".

Philippine military spokesman Colonel Restituto Padilla declined to comment to AFP on Wednesday about the new video.

The Philippine government has repeatedly said it has a "no-ransom policy". But parties linked to captives frequently pay.

In October last year, the Abu Sayyaf claimed it received 250 million pesos ($5.3 million) in exchange for two German hostages they held captive for six months. Security analysts said a large ransom was paid.



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