The Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) intensified its operations to save a German hostage whom his captor–the Abu Sayyaf Group (ASG)–had threatened to behead before the lapse of a two-week ultimatum, a military official said on Wednesday.
“They [jihadists]gave a February 26 deadline and we are doing our best efforts to rescue the kidnap victim and we have enough forces to do that,” said Col. Cirilito Sobejana, commander of the AFP Joint Task Force Sulu.
But the job, Sobejana added, would not be easy as the military needs the support of the community particularly in pinpointing the exact location not only of German Juerguen Kantner, 70, but also of other hostages.
The ASG, he said, is holding 27 hostages composed of Filipinos, Malaysians, Indonesians, Vietnamese, Dutch and Germans.
“So this is the challenge ahead of us. [But] we will be doing relentless effort, we will pursue them and hopefully we will be able to make it… I will make the full use of my available manpower, troops, under my command and of course, we are a joint force here, I have the Navy and Air Force component, we will use all of them,” according to Sobejano.
The task force, he said, has at least 14 battalions.
“We are trying to strategize. With so many battalions that I have, we want to cover all areas of Sulu particularly where the ASG took their victims,” he said.
Sobejano refused to divulge what particular area the military is concentrating on or what ASG faction is holding the hostages.
In a two-minute video released on Tuesday, Kantner tearfully pleaded for his life as the ASG threatened to kill him if the demanded P30-million ransom is not paid.
Released by the SITE Intelligence Group, the video showed Kantner sitting in front of four masked men, three of whom were brandishing high-powered firearms and the one behind the German hostage holding a sickle.
The AFP Chief of Staff, Gen. Eduardo Año, has ordered to wipe out in six months, or by July 31, the ASG and other terrorist groups in southern Philippines.