The Islamic State (ISIS/ISIL)-linked Abu Sayyaf group, based in the southern Philippines, is threatening to behead the two remaining hostages from a group of four it kidnapped last year if a ransom of nearly $13 million is not paid.
Abu Sayyaf’s threat follows the savage decapitation of the two other hostages — Canadians John Ridsdel (April 25) and Robert Hall (June 13) — after their government refused to meet ransom demands, reports the Philippine Daily Inquirer.
On Sept. 21, 2015, the jihadist group kidnapped the two brutally murdered Canadians, alongside Norwegian Kjartan Sekkingstad and Filipina Marites Flor, from a marina and resort on Samal Island in the Davao del Norte province, located in southern Philippines.
The Abu Sayyaf group (ASG) is demanding 600 million Philippine pesos (about $13 million) in ransom for Sekkingstad and Flor, who remain in the clutches of the terrorist group.
Sekkingstad and Flor have besought their governments to take immediate action to ensure that they get out of their predicament alive, reports the Inquirer, noting that outgoing Philippine President Benigno S. Aquino III has stressed his country’s “no-ransom policy.”
“If we pay ransom, it would only worsen the problem and encourage others (to engage in kidnapping),” said the Filipino president, who has reportedly apologized to Canada’s Prime Minister Justine Trudeau for the beheading of the two Canadians.
Hall, 68, was beheaded on June 13, and Ridsdel, 68, met the same fate on April 25. The gruesome beheading of the two Canadians was documented on video by the terrorist group.
The latest beheading video, released June 14, shows Abu Sayyaf jihadists standing over Hall, who is made to kneel in front of a black ISIS flag before he is decapitated.
Prior to their beheading, the two Canadians and the other two hostages appeared in various videos showing their captors demanding millions in ransom.
Footage that surfaced in mid-April showed Hall and Ridsdel imploring the Canadian government to save them from imminent decapitation.
“We’re told this is the absolute final warning, the final urgent appeal to governments — Philippine, Canadian — and families,” says Ridsdel in the video.
“My specific appeal is to the Canadian government, who I know has the capacity to get us out of here. I’m wondering what they’re waiting for,” adds Hall.
In that video, the jihadist warned that they would behead the captives unless an estimated $6.3 million in ransom was paid per hostage by April 25.
Nevertheless, the governments of the Philippines and Canada decided against paying the ransom, refusing to negotiate with terrorists.
When the April 25th deadline came to pass, Ridsdel was decapitated. On June 12, Abu Sayyaf terrorists threatened to torture Hall before decapitating him, if a ransom for him was not paid by June 13, the day he was beheaded.
Hall’s family in Ottawa, Canada, reportedly agrees with their country’s policy of not paying ransom for hostages, noting in a statement that every option to free him was considered.
The outgoing Philippine president has indicated that “private negotiators” have been in touch with Abu Sayyaf to discuss the Norwegian’s return, reports the Inquirer.
Agence France-Presse (AFP) notes that he has traveled to “Jolo Island, where the Abu Sayyaf group is based and believed to be holding Norwegian Kjartan Sekkingstad, to meet with troops tasked with tracking the militants through hostile jungle terrain” and plan the rescue of the Norwegian man and other hostages.
President Aquino is considering placing the entire Sulu province, of which Jolo is the capital, “under martial law as part of the intensified operations against the Abu Sayyaf,” reports the Philippine Inquirer.
Citing regional security firm Pacific Strategies and Assessments, TIME magazine reports that Abu Sayyaf is currently holding captive eight people.
Abu Sayyaf, which means “bearer of the sword” in Arabic, is a radical Islamic group that was founded in the 1990s with al-Qaeda funding. The group, known for its kidnappings for ransom, bombings, ambushes of security personnel, public beheadings, assassinations, and extortion, has pledged allegiance to ISIS.
The Philippine armed forces, which receives support from the U.S. military in the form of trainers, are fighting to defeat the jihadist group.
Abu Sayyaf has been designated a terrorist group by the United States, Canada, and various other countries. The group is estimated to have 400 members, according to the U.S. State Department.