For P30M ransom
ZAMBOANGA CITY: Abu Sayyaf Group (ASG) militants linked to the Islamic State have freed Norwegian hostage Kjartan Sekkingstad following negotiations with the Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF), the military said on Saturday.
Sekkingstad was turned over by the rebel group late Friday to MNLF commander Tahil Sali in the village of Buanza in Sulu’s Indanan town. Reports said P30 million in ransom was paid to the Abu Sayyaf in exchange for Sekkingstad’s freedom.
Last month, President Rodrigo Duterte told reporters that private negotiators paid P50 million to the ASG for the safe release of Sekkingstad, but the group demanded P250 million more.
Norwegian Ambassador Erik Forner, who previously met with Duterte in Davao City, thanked the President for his efforts to secure the release of Sekkingstad.
Col. Edgard Arevalo, head of the public affairs office of the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP), said Sekkingstad was released at about 4 p.m. on Saturday.
“Mr. Sekkingstad will proceed to the Provincial Capitol for his turnover to proper authorities,” Arevalo said.
“The release of the kidnap victim is an offshoot of the ongoing military operations to sustain pressure against the ASG and the assistance of the MNLF,” the military official added.
Simultaneous land, air, naval and police operations were conducted against Abu Sayyaf militants following the deadly bombing of a night market in Davao City that killed 15 peopl.
Members of the Naval Commander Amphibious Task Group 80.2, which conducted raids in the islands of Pata and Kalinggalang Caluang in Sulu, confiscated 15 unregistered motorized boats, including one believed to be used by Abu Sayyaf leader Alhabsy Misaya, who is behind the kidnapping of Indonesian and Malaysian tugboat crews.
Arevalo said AFP chief Ricardo Visaya commended the soldiers who sustained the pressure on the militants.
“He expects there will be more kidnap victims released under the same circumstances,” he added.
Sekkingstad was kidnapped along with Canadians John Ridsdel and Robert Hall and Maritess Flor, a Filipina, in September last year in a resort in Samal Island in Davao del Norte province.
Ridsdel and Hall were beheaded by the ASG when their families failed to pay the ransom demanded by the group. Flor was released by the militants in June.
The ASG is still holding more than a dozen other hostages, including Malaysian and Indonesian tugboat crew and Filipino fishermen kidnapped in Sabah.
WITH REPORTS FROM ANTHONY VARGAS AND PNA