Philippines: Hostage deadline passes, aide issues plea

 27 Feb 2017 - 12:49

Philippines: Hostage deadline passes, aide issues plea
Photo: AA.


ZAMBOANGA CITY, Philippines: A Philippines presidential aide Sunday appealed to a IS-linked militant group to spare the life of a German hostage.

In a statement, Jesus Dureza, President Rodrigo Duterte’s peace adviser, said he is appealing to the Abu Sayyaf holding Jurgen Kantner, whose captors had earlier issued a Sunday afternoon ultimatum. 

But at press time, the deadline set by the terror group had already lapsed with no word about the fate of the hostage on either side. The German Foreign Ministry was also silent.

Abu Sayyaf kidnappers had originally set a Jan. 11 deadline, but the terrorists extended it until Feb. 26 at 3.00 p.m. (0700GMT) for their 30 million Philippine pesos ($600,000) ransom demands to be met by the German government, otherwise they would behead Kantner. 

Kantner, 70, and his partner Sabine Merz were in a yacht off the Sulu archipelago between Malaysia and the main Philippine islands when they were abducted on Nov. 5. Merz was killed during the kidnapping.

The military's Western Mindanao Command (WestMinCom) issued a statement just ahead of the deadline. 

"Deadline or no deadline, troops are using all efforts and means in order to go after the terrorist group Abu Sayyaf and to rescue all kidnap victims, foreign and local," said WestMinCom chief Maj. Gen. Carlito Galvez. 

The Armed Forces of the Philippines have launched airstrikes on suspected lairs of Abu Sayyaf in Sulu ahead of the deadline. 

Local media reports here said MG-520 attack helicopters pounded a forested area of the town of Patikul where an estimated 40-60 militants are hiding with their captives.

"The terrorist group no longer has safe established encampments for them to hide their victims," Galvez said in statement. 

There were now 33 hostages -- seven locals and 26 foreigners -- in the hands of terror group following the kidnappings of 7 Vietnamese in the waters off Tawi-Tawi a week ago.

Abu Sayyaf, which had often made good on its previous threats, beheaded two Canadians, a Malaysian, and a Filipino after ransom demands were not met last year.