Islamist militants in the Philippines are understood to be threatening to behead one of two German hostages being held, unless Germany agrees to pay a large ransom and withdraw all support for the US-led attacks on ISIS in Iraq and Syria within 15 days. Germany has stressed that it will not be threatened in this way, The Local has reported.
The hostages, reported to be a German doctor and his girlfriend, were sailing a yacht between Malaysia and the Philippines in April this year when they were abducted by Abu Sayyaf, a militant Islamic group acting in the region.
It appears that the group are now following the examples of ISIS militants, who within the last month have beheaded two Americans and a Brit, and threatened the lives of two more, and a group acting in Algeria who yesterday beheaded a French tourist, having demanded the French government withdraw their troops from Iraq and Syria within 24 hours; a demand that was not met.
A German foreign ministry spokesman has confirmed that the German government has “heard about the report,” but stressed “threats are now an appropriate way to influence our policy in Syria and Iraq”. She also confirmed that “there will be no change to our Syria and Iraq policy”.
The threat against the hostages was uncovered by SITE, a US-based jihadist monitoring organisation which regularly helps the FBI and American governmental departments with their investigations into global jihad. They have posted a picture on their website attributed to Abu Sayyaf which shows a white haired man in his sixties or early seventies, kneeling besides a younger woman with close cropped brown hair.
They are surrounded by six men whose faces are covered, five of whom hold rifles and one, standing next to the couple, wielding a large knife. SITE are reporting that the terrorists have demanded a ransom of €4.4million ($5.6m) and the immediate withdrawal of Germany from the Middle East.
“It is hard for us to make a judgement on what is said, especially on social media and the veracity of this picture, until investigators are able to determine how authentic it is,” Lieutenant-Colonel Ramon Zagala, a Filipino military spokesman told reporters. The Philippine authorities said yesterday that they are investigating the reports, but would not comment on the photo or demands.
The German foreign ministry spokeswoman has said that the German government is setting up a crisis task force in light of the information, “and we will of course continue our efforts to secure a release”.
Although the German government has ruled out participating in air strikes or any ground offensive in Iraq and Syria, it has donated weapons to the Peshmerga Kurdish forces fighting ISIS on the ground. It has also sent 40 soldiers to Iraq to help train Kurdish forces. The activity is unusual for Germany, who normally refrains from military engagement thanks to shame over its history of military aggression in the early 20th century. Germany has never before exported weapons to war zones.
Abu Sayyaf is considered a “foreign terrorist organisation” by the United States. It was founded in the 1990s with funding from al-Qaida and now consists of a loose band of several hundred Islamic militants, operating in the remote southern Philippine islands which are home to the nation’s Muslim minority population.
It has been blamed for the Philippines worst terrorist attacks to date, including the bombing of a ferry on Manila Bay which killed more than 100 people in 2004. It has also claimed responsibility for a number of beheadings, kidnappings and abductions, both of tourists and locals.
It is understood to currently be holding a number of European nationals. The US military has been stationing a few hundred soldiers in the area for over 12 years, on a rotating basis, to teach locals how to combat the group.
In recent months, Abu Sayyaf has uploaded a number of videos on the internet in which the group proclaim allegiance to ISIS.