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Ransom reportedly paid for German hostages

October 17, 2014

According to some media reports, part of a four-million-euro ransom was paid in return for the release of two German hostages held by terrorists in the Philippines. Sources say the man is unharmed.

Philippinie Soldiers 17.10.2014 Jolo
Image: Reuters

The al-Qaeda-linked Islamists holding two German hostages have received at least part of their ransom money, according to multiple sources.

Al Kataib, a man who described himself as an associate of militant spokesman, Abu Rami, said in a telephone call to reporters in Zamboanga City that the group got a portion of the 250 million Philippine pesos ($5.56 million) they had demanded by Friday and "would not touch" the German they had threatened to behead.

News agency Reuters said the man had declined to say how much money they had received, or give details about who had paid it.

A Philippine government official, who wished to remain anonymous, has confirmed that the German man, has indeed not been harmed and that the "beheading would not happen."

German government sources told Reuters that Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier had sent a special envoy to the Philippines to negotiate the deal. Envoy Ruediger Koenig had arrived in Manilla on Thursday evening, according to the sources.

According to a local radio station, DXRZ, the hostages - a 72-year-old German man along with his female 55-year-old partner - had been freed, German news agency dpa reported, adding that this had not been verified.

Vacation gone wrong

It is thought the two German nationals were kidnapped by the Islamist group Abu Sayyaf from their yacht on April 25 after it broke down traveling from the western Philippine province of Palawan to Borneo. The two were forced to record multiple pleas with a radio station.

On Wednesday, the man - who has been separated from his partner since the beginning of the month - told a local radio station that his captors had already dug his grave. Nothing has been heard of his partner so far.

The Islamists, who call themselves the Abu Sayyaf, had demanded a ransom of 250 million pesos (4.4 million euros/$5.6 million) for the two German nationals. The release of the captives has also been made contingent on Germany halting its military support for the US-led airstrikes against "Islamic State" (IS) fighters in Syria and Iraq. Although it was not immediately clear whether the group had links to the IS militia, Abu Sayyaf has been notorious for carrying out attacks and taking hostages in the Catholic-majority Philippines.

In late September, the German government said Abu Sayyaf's tactics were "not an appropriate way to influence policy in Syria and Iraq."

Reported rescue attempt

According to German news agency dpa, Philippine troops had begun moving in on the kidnappers on Friday. "What will happen is like a rescue operation," the agency quoted a military official as saying.

Lieutenant Colonel Harold Cabunoc, a spokesman for the military, declined to confirm that a rescue has been launched, but said that soldiers have been given permission to conduct a "law enforcement operation."

"Whatever the soldiers are doing, they have strict orders to avoid hurting the hostages and the residents in the affected communities," he said.

sb/ksb (dpa, Reuters)