ZAMBOANGA CITY: Abu Sayyaf militants in southern Philippines threatened to behead one of their two German hostages if Berlin fails to pay P250 million in ransom until October 10, 2014.
They also demanded that Germany stop supporting US air strikes against the Islamic State or IS in Iraq and Syria.
The demands were contained in a letter sent by Abu Rami and a copy was posted on the website “World Analysis,” a nonpartisan, open-source information resource for geopolitical events worldwide, run by Canadian Casey Britton, a former private investigator and information systems developer.
It was unknown how the website obtained a copy of the letter, but the site also showed three photos of two German yachtmen–Stefan Viktor Okonek, 71, and Herike Diesen, 55–who disappeared in waters off Palawan island. The Germans were snatched at sea on April 25 while heading to Sabah from a holiday in Palawan and they were reported missing after Filipino fishermen spotted their empty yacht.
In the photo uploaded on the “World Analysis” website, the duo was surrounded by masked gunmen, one of them brandishing a bolo while grabbing the shirt of a terrified Okonek. One of the photos had been shared on Facebook in August. It showed Okonek and Diesen behind a German flag and surrounded by at least 10 gunmen in a forest, and a black flag with an Arabic inscription can be seen in the background.
The letter reads: “The Abu Sayyaf is warning the families of the hostages and the German government, and the Philippine government — first, you give us our demand of P250 million up to October 10, 2014 — or we will behead one of the hostage; secondly, Germany must cease its support to America on the killings of our brother Muslims in Iraq and Sham (Syria, Jordan, Lebanon and Palestine), and our brother mujahedeen.”
It was signed by Abu Raami.
There was no immediate statement from Manila, but President Benigno Aquino 3rd recently met with German Chancellor Angela Merkel during his European swing. It was unknown if Aquino and Merkel discussed the hostage crisis.
The Abu Sayyaf is still holding several foreigners and Filipinos kidnapped in southern Philippines. Among them are two European wildlife photographers Ewold Horn, 52, from Holland; and Lorenzo Vinciguerre, 47, from Switzerland, who were taken captive in the coastal village of Parangan in Panglima Sugala town in southern Tawi-Tawi province two years ago.
The Armed Forces of the Philippines said it was verifying the veracity of the rebels’ demands.
The United States and its Arab allies unleashed deadly bomb and missile strikes on jihadists in Syria on Tuesday (Wednesday in Manila), opening a new front in the battle against the Islamic State group.
Dozens of IS and al-Qaeda militants were reported killed in the raids, which Washington said had partly targeted extremists plotting an “imminent attack” against the West.
Bahrain, Jordan, Qatar, Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates joined the operation, which involved fighter jets, bombers, drones and Tomahawk missiles fired from US warships.
President Barack Obama, who had already launched strikes against IS militants in neighboring Iraq, said “the strength of this coalition makes it clear to the world that this is not America’s fight alone.
“It must be clear to anyone who would plot against America and try to do Americans harm that we will not tolerate safe havens for terrorists who threaten our people,” he added.
The raids marked a turning point in the war against IS, which has seized swathes of Syria and Iraq and declared an Islamic “caliphate.”