Video purportedly released by Filipino militant group appears to show three hostages pleading for their release
Release comes a week after Abu Sayyaf murdered a Canadian hostage, who is referenced in the tape
A video purporting to show Western and Filipino hostages of the ISIS-aligned militant group Abu Sayyaf emerged this week, with the three captives pleading to governments, friends, politicians and even celebrities to come to their aid.
The video, obtained by extremist monitoring organization SITE, shows Norwegian national Kjartan Sekkingstad, Canadian national Robert Hall and Filipina Marites Flor sitting on the ground, surrounded by six armed militants, one of whose faces is masked.
The shaky, handheld video opens with Sekkingstad appealing to the Canadian and Filipino governments, as well as friends and family, to secure their release from captivity. The group had earlier demanded a Php 300 million ransom ($6.37 million) for each of the victims to be paid by April 25, Philippines state media reported.
He invokes the recent beheading of another Western hostage, John Ridsdel, who was captured alongside the surviving hostages from the Oceanview Resort on Samal Island, which lies off the coast of the major southern island of Mindanao, in September of last year.
Sekkingstad was the resort’s manager, while the other three hostages were guests who had docked their yacht at the resort’s marina.
The militant group murdered Ridsdel, another Canadian, late last month, when the ransom demand deadline had expired. The group released the video of his decapitation, again obtained by SITE, which posted it May 3.
The video then pans to Hall, who asks the Filipino government to stop its military actions against the group, implying that the offensive is putting their lives in danger. Operations against Abu Sayyaf were stepped up in the wake of Ridsdel’s murder.
Hall says that he’s been told to demand that the Canadian government pay their ransom, and cites the inaction of the Trudeau administration as a cause of Ridsdel’s death.
Flor then speaks, appealing tearfully in English and Tagalog to everyone from the relevant governments, Filipino President Benigno “Noynoy” Aquino, to presidential hopeful Rodrigo Duterte – currently mayor of Davao City in the southern island, Mindanao, where the Abu Sayyaf stronghold is based – and even boxer Manny Pacquaio, who also hails from Mindanao.
Further decapitations threatened
The only masked militant then addresses the camera, who says that the lesson of Ridsdel’s death was clear and warns against procrastinating in the negotiations, threatening to behead the three remaining hostages if their demands are not met.
Abu Sayyaf released a similar video last year, about a month after taking the four hostage.
Following the murder of Ridsdel, at the beginning of May the group released ten Indonesian hostages.
Four Indonesians were still being held, Indonesian President Joko Widodo said, and his government would continue to work to secure their release.
Norwegian Foreign Minister Borge Brende said Norway would continue “ongoing efforts to find a solution for the remaining hostages,” following the Canadian hostage’s death.
Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said, while he was “outraged” at Ridsdel’s murder, his government “would will not comment or release any information which may compromise ongoing efforts or endanger the safety of the remaining hostages.”
Who are Abu Sayyaf?
The violent extremist group seeks to establish an independent Islamic state on Mindanao, the southernmost major island of the predominantly Catholic Philippines.
The Philippines military has made inroads in recent years in thwarting the group’s terrorist bombing campaigns, prompting a shift in focus by the group to kidnappings for ransom.
Greg Poling, director of the Asia Maritime Transparency Initiative at the Washington-based Center for Strategic International Studies, has said that “after about 15 years of a pretty harsh crackdown by the U.S. and the Philippines, what they’ve basically become is a criminal group made up of a few hundred who engage in extortion and kidnapping.”
CNN’s Chieu Luu and Rebecca Wright contributed to this report.