• Abu Sayyaf Group threatens to execute German hostage

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    ZAMBOANGA CITY: Abu Sayyaf rebels have threatened to behead a German yachter kidnapped in November last year off Sabah near southern Philippines if their ransom demand is not paid.

    The rebels who are holding Jurgen Kantner set their deadline on February 26. The 70-year old Kantner was kidnapped with his wife Sabine Merz, 56, when Abu Sayyaf gunmen intercepted them just several nautical miles from the southern province of Tawi-Tawi.

    The woman was killed. Her naked body was found by soldiers in the boat. A shotgun was also recovered near her body, according to the military’s Western Mindanao Command. It said an Abu Sayyaf sub-leader Muamar Askali phoned a media organization in Zamboanga City to say that they are holding Kantner and demanding P500 million for his safe release.

    The Abu Sayyaf demand was contained in a video released on February 14 on Telegram Messenger where it showed Kantner pleading to his government to save his life. The rebels were demanding a P30 million ransom.

    In April 2014, Askali’s group also kidnapped two German yachters – Stefan Viktor Okonek, 71, and Henrike Diesen, 55 — and demanded a P250 million in ransom.

    The duo was freed six months later after the German government paid the ransom delivered by Filipino security officials.

    The Abu Sayyaf is still holding about two dozen Malaysian, Indonesian and Vietnamese sailors kidnapped last year in Sabah and Basilan province.

    The Philippines is hunting down at least 23 people who were identified and wanted by Malaysian authorities for the string of ransom kidnappings and attacks at sea off Sabah.

    Six of the 23 individuals, mostly Abu Sayyaf members, are facing arrest warrants.

    They are Apo Mike, alias Majan Sahidjuan; Hatib Hayan, alias Sawadjaan; Alden Bagde, alias Sayning; Muamar Askali, alias Abu Rami; Idang Susukan and Alhabsi Misaya.

    The Eastern Sabah Security Command recently released the names of 23 people sought for involvement in kidnapping incidents in the coastlines and waters of eastern Sabah.

    The Abu Sayyaf group, formed by Ustadz Abdurajak Abubakar Janjalani in 1992, continues to recruit members to fight the government in their attempt to set up a strict Islamic caliphate in Mindanao. It now has hundreds of members in the Muslim autonomous region and the military had failed to stop the growing influence and violent campaigns of the rebel group because it did not sustain the combat operations needed to wipe out the Abu Sayyaf in the restive region. Much of the military’s huge budget goes to combat operations and its modernization program

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