Germans kidnapped in Philippines make radio plea for their release

Abu Sayyaf

Man and woman, identified as doctor Stefan Okonek and Henrike Dielen, were seized at gunpoint by Islamists in April

Two Germans being held by Islamists in the southern Philippines have made a radio appeal to try to secure their release, days after the militants threatened to kill them.

The Abu Sayyaf group has demanded that the German government stop supporting US action against Islamic State (Isis) in Iraq and Syria and wants a ransom paid for the captives. It says it will behead one of them if the demands are not met by 10 October.

“Hopefully, our government will do all they can to get me free,” a male captive, who identified himself as a medical doctor, told a radio station based in Zamboanga City. “We were sailing on our sailboat and unfortunately I was taken hostage,” he said, adding that he was concerned for his health.

According to media reports, the two Germans were seized at gunpoint from a yacht between Malaysian Borneo and the southern Philippines in April. They have previously been identified by Philippine military officials as Stefan Okonek, a doctor in his early 70s, and Henrike Dielen, in her mid-50s.

In the radio broadcast, a female captive appealed to the authorities to get them out soon, saying that “living in the jungle is also very dangerous because we can contract any tropical disease”.

“I would also like to address the Philippine and German governments to do all they can because we are living in a difficult situation,” she said. “I really wish to see my family again … The situation here is very, very stressful.”

Abu Sayyaf rose to prominence in the early 2000s by kidnapping foreigners. It has links with al-Qaida, although analysts and Philippine security sources say it has recently focused on obtaining ransoms and other criminal activities.

Police intelligence authorities told Reuters the radio broadcast appeared to be authentic. A rebel who spoke during the broadcast identified himself as Abu Ramin, spokesman of Abu Sayyaf.

 

However, an intelligence source said the man was Muammar Ascali of Patikul, in the southern island province of Sulu, who authorities say was one of the original kidnappers of the two Germans.

General Gregorio Catapang, the Philippines’ armed forces chief, said the army would not be pressured by the demands. “We are doing our best to locate and rescue them,” he said during a visit to Zamboanga City. “We don’t want them to be collateral damage in this conflict.”

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