Philippine militants free Germans

Published: Friday 17th October 2014 by The News Editor

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Two Germans kidnapped and held for six months in the southern Philippines have been released by a militant group.

The Abu Sayyaf group released Stefan Okonek and Henrike Dielen on southern Jolo Island, the Philippine’s defence secretary Voltaire Gazmin said.

Abu Sayyaf spokesman Abu Rami said his group received 250 million pesos (5.6 million US dollars) in ransom. He did not say who paid it.

Mr Gazmin said he was “not privy” to information about any ransom payment.

“We’re happy they’re safe. I hope there will be no more” kidnappings, he said.

Abu Sayyaf gunmen seized the hostages last April from a yacht between Malaysia’s Sabah state on Borneo Island and the western Philippine province of Palawan. They were taken by boat to Sulu province, about 590 miles south of Manila, where militants are holding other hostages.

Abu Rami had threatened to behead Mr Okonek if there was no ransom payment. The group also demanded the withdrawal of German support for US-led air strikes against the Islamic State group in Syria and Iraq.

In a call to the Zamboanga radio station, Rami said Mr Okonek and Mr Dielen were released to a negotiator in Patikul township on Jolo Island, an Abu Sayyaf stronghold.

“The 250 million pesos arrived, no more, no less,” he said.

In an interview with radio station DXRZ allowed by the militants earlier this week, Mr Okonek, 71, who identified himself as a medical doctor, pleaded, “please do everything to get us out of here”.

He said he was speaking from inside a 15ft by 10ft “grave” the gunmen had dug for him in the jungle. He said he and Mr Dielen had been separated by the militants about a day earlier.

“They pushed me inside this hole and I’m sitting with 10 men around me all day, 24 hours a day. I don’t get enough to eat. I have lost already 20 pounds and I am very weak,” he said.

The military says the Abu Sayyaf is still holding several other hostages in Sulu’s jungles, including two European birdwatchers who were kidnapped two years ago.

Published: Friday 17th October 2014 by The News Editor

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