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Filipino militants free Norwegian hostage

September 17, 2016

Filipino officials have said a Norwegian man held for almost a year by Abu Sayyaf militants has been set free. He was kidnapped with two Canadians, who were beheaded after the terror group's ransom demands weren't met.

Polizei Philippinen
Image: picture-alliance/dpa/A. Hajan

Kjartan Sekkingstad, 56, was handed over to local troops on Jolo Island in the southern Philippines on Saturday, officials said.

The Norwegian national, who had been held hostage since September 2015, was to stay overnight in the home of a commander in jungle-covered Sulu province before being flown out to meet with President Rodrigo Duterte on Sunday.

Infografik Abu Sayyaf Englisch

Abu Ramie, a spokesman for Abu Sayyaf, told the German Press Agency they had received 30 million pesos (572,000 euros; $638,000) in ransom for Sekkingstad's release. The Philippine government did not confirm the ransom payment, although Duterte hinted at a press conference last month that a large amount had been paid to the militants.

Major Felimon Tan, a regional military spokesman, said the release was the result of "ongoing military operations" targeting the group.

"Simultaneous land, air, naval and police operations complemented each other putting pressure on the Abu Sayyaf," he said.

ISIS in the Philippines

Sekkingstad was taken hostage along with two Canadians and a Filipino woman from the resort island of Samal. The Canadians, John Ridsdel and Robert Hall, were decapitated earlier this year after huge ransoms demanded by the terrorist group weren't paid by the set deadline. Filipina Marites Flor was released in June.

The beheadings sparked condemnations from Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and then-Philippine President Benigno Aquino III. Soon afterwards, government forces launched a major offensive against the militants.

Abu Sayyaf, which specializes in kidnapping foreigners and demanding ransoms, has been accused of carrying out a number of deadly attacks across the Philippines. The group is believed to still be holding a Dutchman, eight Malaysians, eight Indonesians and several Filipinos.

nm/sms (AP, dpa)