Video purportedly showing three foreign nationals and one Filipina hostage released
Hostages were abducted from an island resort in the southern Philippines in late September
While the identity of the group has not been confirmed, Abu Sayyaf militant group active in southern Philippines
A video that purports to show four hostages, who appear to be those kidnapped by armed militants in the southern Philippines last month, has been posted online.
The video shows three hostages who appear to be foreign nationals pleading for help from the Canadian and Philippine governments. The fourth person, a Filipino woman, does not speak.
The hostages are surrounded by masked, heavily armed militants and banners that appear to be ISIS flags, or jihadist flags which are very similar in appearance to the infamous black-and-white standard. The kidnappers do not identify their affiliation in the video, but the Abu Sayyaf Islamist group is a known militant presence in the area.
The abductions took place on the evening of September 21 at the Oceanview Resort on Samal Island, which lies off the coast of the major southern island of Mindanao, according to the official Philippines News Agency.
A spokesperson for the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) told journalists Wednesday that authorities have seen the video and are evaluating it. Col. Restituto Padilla said he could not divulge operational details and would not comment on the identity of the kidnappers.
“As of now, our current (military) posture is still the same,” he said. “(Our) posture remains, where our troops are, where our police are, they will remain to be where they are.”
Padilla said that the kidnappers had not yet made any monetary demands, and that his government “is doing everything and coordinating with all agencies concerned locally and outside the country.”
The video shows the four hostages, three men and one woman, sitting on the ground in a row together. At least eight armed men wearing scarves to cover their faces standing behind them. The Filipina is sitting on the far left. The camera then zooms in on the man beside her.
He gives his name as Robert Hall, and after assuring friends and family of his health he stresses that he and his fellow hostages are in danger. He asks that his relatives and friends contact the Canadian and Philippines governments to stop military and other issues that affect the southern Filipino province of Mindanao.
The camera is then trained on the man sitting to Sekkingstad’s left. His head is being held by a militant, who is holding a machete in his other hand.
The captive, who says his name is John Ridsdel, confirms that they were taken captive from the Oceanview Marina, and again reiterates his fellow hostages’ pleas that the Canadian and Philippines governments help them by ceasing bombing, artillery fire and other military operations so that negotiations can commence.
The camera pans up to a militant whose face is covered with a green and black scarf, and who wears sunglasses. He demands, in English, that the two governments cease military actions as a prerequisite to opening negotiations for the hostages’ release.
The militants start chanting in Arabic and raise their guns.
The Filipino Presidential Communications Secretary Sonny Coloma said at a press conference in Manila that the government’s aim is to “ensure their safety and secure their release and all actions emanate from this.”
The Norwegian government said it is aware of the existence of the video but would not comment other than to say that they are working with authorities and the government of the Philippines on the situation, Rune Bjastad, communications adviser and press contact for the Minister of Foreign affairs, told CNN. Norwegian media has identified Sekkingstad as one of the men in the video.
Canada’s Department of Foreign Affairs said the government knew that two Canadian citizens had been taken hostage.
“Canadian officials are in close contact with Filipino authorities and have been pursuing all appropriate channels to seek further information. The Government of Canada will not comment or release any information which may compromise ongoing efforts and risks endangering the safety of Canadian citizens abroad,” a spokesman said.
The southern Philippines has been plagued by unrest involving Islamist militants in recent years, including the taking of foreign hostages.
The Philippines News Agency last month reported that almost a dozen gunmen stormed the resort late at night, taking the three foreign nationals and one Philippines citizen hostage.
CNN Philippines reporter Anjo Alimario and journalist Arlene Samson Espiritu contributed reporting.