Norwegian Hostage Freed by Al Qaeda-Linked Abu Sayyaf Islamist Militant Group in Philippines — “Thank you to President Duterte”

Reuters
September 17, 2016

MANILA — A Norwegian man held hostage by the al Qaeda-linked Abu Sayyaf Islamist militant group in the southern Philippines since September last year was freed on Saturday, Philippine officials said.

The group seized Kjartan Sekkingstad from an upscale resort on Samal island in Davao del Norte along with a Filipina, who has already been freed, and two Canadians, whom the militants later executed.

Abu Sayyaf, based in the south of the mainly Roman Catholic Philippines, is known for kidnappings, beheadings and extortion. It had initially demanded one billion pesos ($21 million) each for the detainees, but it later lowered the ransom to 300 million pesos each.

The group released Sekkingstad in the town of Patikul in the Sulu Archipelago and he is now in the custody of Nur Misuari, founder of the Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF), in the regional capital Jolo, said Jesus Dureza, a peace adviser to the Philippines’ president.

Sekkingstad had been due to meet President Rodrigo Duterte later on Saturday but the meeting was cancelled due to bad weather.

“His first words when I spoke to him on the phone (were): “Thank you to President Duterte,” Dureza said in a statement. “His release from captivity capped months of quiet, patient but determined efforts with the assistance of all sectors.”

Major Filemon Tan, spokesman of the military’s Western Mindanao Command, said the release of Sekkingstad was the result of “intense” military operations against the Abu Sayyaf.

Tan also credited the MNLF for helping the government in seeking the release of the Norwegian.

Abu Sayyaf beheaded the two Canadians it seized last year with Sekkingstad, the first one in April and the other in June, after a deadline for the payment of ransom money lapsed. The Filipina victim was released in June.

It was unclear whether a ransom had been paid in exchange for Sekkingstad’s freedom, but it is widely believed that no captives are released by the group without it.

Security experts say brokers, messengers and go-betweens are involved at multiple levels, some taking substantial cuts. Payments are euphemistically called “board and lodgings”.

The group has made tens of millions of dollars from ransom money since it was formed in the 1990s, security experts say, channelling it into guns, grenade launchers, high-powered boats and modern equipment.

(Reporting by Enrico dela Cruz and Manuel Mogato; Editing by Gareth Jones)

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Abu Sayyaf frees Norwegian captive in Sulu

An earlier file image posted on Site Intel Group’s Twitter account shows Abu Sayyaf members with the Samal Island hostages
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ZAMBOANGA CITY, Philippines – The Abu Sayyaf group released its last Samal captive on Friday night after alleged payment of P30-million ransom in Sulu, authorities said.

Norwegian hostage Kjartan Sekkingstad was released almost five days before spending a year in captivity.

Intelligence units reported Sekkingstad was freed about 8:30 p.m. on Friday at the vicinity of Barangay Buanza, Indanan, Sulu.

The release of Sekkingstad was facilitated by Tahil Sali, a Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF) commander and its members, according to intelligence source.

Military officials confirmed the report and are securing details surrounding the release of Sekkingstad.

The freed Norwegian was brought to the house of Gov. Abdusakur Tan II on Friday night at Barangay Asturias, Jolo town which experienced power interruption.

There was no immediate detail on the current condition of the freed hostage.

Sekkingstad was abducted along with Canadians John Ridsdel and Robert Hall, and Filipina Marites Flor last Sept. 21, 2015 in Samal Island resort off Davao province.

Ridsdel and Hall were beheaded last April 25 and June 13, respectively, after failure to pay the P300-million ransom per captive. Flor, on the other hand, was freed last June 24 unharmed.

The military continued to hunt the Abu Sayyaf group to rescue the remaining hostages, who include a Dutch national, seven Indonesians, five Malaysians and seven local captives.

Troops were also verifying whether the three Malaysians abducted last September 10 off Pom Pom, Sempurnah, Sabah were brought to Sulu.

http://www.philstar.com/headlines/2016/09/17/1624692/abu-sayyaf-frees-norwegian-captive-sulu

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