MANILA, Jan 12, (AFP): Philippine Islamic militants have released a video showing an elderly German sailor abducted at sea late last year is alive, according to a security group that monitors jihadist activity.
The Abu Sayyaf, a notorious kidnap-for-ransom gang based in the southern Philippines, released the video of Jurgen Kantner on Wednesday along with photos that had a date stamp of Dec 26 last year, SITE Intelligence Group reported. The military on Nov 7 last year reported finding Kantner’s yacht, Rockall, adrift off the southern Philippines. The body of a woman with a bullet wound, later identified by the hostage as his partner, Sabine Merz, was found on board the vessel. In Berlin, German authorities declined to comment on the video. “As a matter of policy, the government does not comment on cases of kidnapping and hostage taking of German citizens abroad,” said a source from the German foreign ministry.
The Abu Sayyaf, which has pledged allegiance to the Islamic State group, later claimed the abduction and the killing. The group is made of up several small armed bands based in the mainly Muslim southern islands of Basilan and Jolo, where they are also holding a Dutchman and foreign crew members of several other vessels. It is blamed for the Philippines’ deadliest bombing attacks as well as dozens of kidnappings-for-ransom. The Abu Sayyaf murdered two Canadian hostages last year after ransom demands were not met.
Meanwhile, the Philippine police chief on Thursday warned an “idiot” policeman accused of kidnapping a South Korean businessman that he would die unless he surrendered. The businessman disappeared from his home in the northern city of Angeles in October last year, with the kidnappers demanding a ransom for his release, authorities said. Police said earlier this week an officer with an anti-drug taskforce was suspected of involvement, that he had been placed under “restrictive custody” and that criminal charges would be filed against him. But police chief Ronald Dela Rosa revealed Thursday the accused officer had not been detained as part of his “restrictive custody”. He said the policeman was meant to just report to his officers, but that he had stopped doing so and gone missing. “I hope you surrender because if you don’t, you will really die. You son of whore, you will die if you do not surrender,” Dela Rosa said in an interview with DZMM radio.
The case has drawn criticism from some lawmakers and local media as an example of corrupt policemen expanding their illegal activities after being given freedoms by President Rodrigo Duterte to prosecute his war against drugs. Duterte has encouraged police to kill drug traffickers and addicts, and vowed to shield them from prosecution. About 5,700 people have died in Duterte’s drug war since he took office in the middle of last year. “Now cops appear to have upped their game by venturing into kidnapping for ransom in the name of the drug war,” the Philippine Daily Inquirer, which has reported critically on the crime crackdown, said in an editorial on Tuesday.
Dela Rosa, picked by Duterte to lead his war on drugs, last year urged drug users to kill traffickers and burn down their homes. He later apologised for his “emotional outburst”. The Daily Inquirer newspaper on Monday quoted the missing man’s wife as saying the abductors had kidnapped him in a bid to extort a ransom. The wife said she had already paid five million pesos ($100,000) but the kidnappers wanted another 4.5 million pesos, according to the newspaper. Dela Rosa said he had ordered a “manhunt” for the officer, whose lack of cooperation he took as a sign of guilt. “There is a big chance this idiot is really guilty,” Dela Rosa said. Dela Rosa said he met with the businessman’s wife and the South Korean ambassador on Wednesday, assuring them the case would be quickly resolved. “But honestly I doubt the Korean is still alive,” Dela Rosa said.