P30-M ransom paid for release – reports
ZAMBOANGA CITY, Philippines – Abu Sayyaf bandits released yesterday their last Samal island captive, Norwegian national Kjartan Sekkingstad, reportedly after payment of ransom in Sulu.
Sekkingstad was released four days before he would have spent his first year in captivity. He was taken by the bandits from a Samal island resort he managed in Davao del Norte on Sept. 21 last year, along with two Canadians and a Filipina.
Presidential peace adviser Jesus Dureza confirmed last night Sekkingstad’s release, which he said took place in Patikul, Sulu at around 2 p.m. yesterday.
The Norwegian was supposed to be flown to Davao City and presented to President Duterte yesterday but bad weather forced the cancellation of the plan, he said. “I will fly him out of Jolo tomorrow morning,” Dureza said.
“His first words when I spoke to him on the phone : ‘Thank you to President Duterte’,” Dureza said in a statement, quoting Sekkingstad as saying.
Earlier, intelligence units said Sekkingstad was released at about 3:30 p.m. in the vicinity of Barangay Buanza, Indanan, Sulu. There were conflicting reports on the ransom paid, with one account putting it at P30 million and another at P100 million. The bandits had originally demanded P300 million for the release of each of the captives.
A Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF) commander identified as Tahil Sali facilitated the release of Sekkingstad, Dureza said confirming an earlier report.
Military officials confirmed the release and were gathering more information on the development.
The freed Norwegian national was reportedly first brought to the house of former governor Abdusakur Tan II Friday night in Barangay Asturias, Jolo town at the height of a power outage.
“He is now staying overnight at the place of MNLF chairman Nur Misuari in Barangay Kagay who volunteered to host his stay due to heavy rains and nightfall,” Dureza said.
“Men of Misuari and former Gov. Sakur Tan and other volunteers helped in the release.”
Dureza said Sekkinstad’s “release from captivity capped months of quiet, patient but determined efforts with the assistance of all sectors.”
There was no immediate information on the health condition of the victim, who was seized along with Canadian nationals John Ridsdel and Robert Hall, and Filipina Marites Flor on the night of Sept. 21 last year.
Ridsdel and Hall were beheaded last April 25 and June 13 respectively. Flor on the other hand was freed last June 24 unharmed.
The military is trying to rescue the remaining 15 foreign hostages including a Dutch national, seven Indonesians, five Malaysians. The terror also has seven Filipino hostages.
The military was also checking if three Malaysians abducted last Sept. 10 off Pom Pom, Sempurnah, Sabah were also brought to Sulu.
The Philippine National Police (PNP) has not officially confirmed the Norwegian’s release.
THE STAR earlier tried to contact PNP spokesman Senior Superintendent Dionardo Carlos for details but he was unavailable.
Sulu Provincial Police director Senior Superintendent Mario Bucuyan advised the media to get details of the release from Tan.
President Duterte last month announced – rather inadvertently – that P50 million had been paid for the release of Sekkingstad.
A source said ransom had been paid to a certain group that claimed to be holding Sekkingstad. The mistake embarrassed negotiators.
Negotiators had also thought that Sekkingstad would be released along with Flor last June 24. Authorities had concluded bad weather was preventing Sekkingstad’s captors from releasing him.
Sekkingstad’s family and friends in Norway reportedly raised the money demanded by the Abu Sayyaf for his release.
Norwegian ambassador Erik Forner reportedly arrived in Davao City on Friday in anticipation of Sekkingstad’s release. –Cecille Suerte Felipe, Edith Regalado, Christina Mendez
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