ZAMBOANGA CITY: Marines killed four Abu Sayyaf fighters before sunrise Sunday in Sulu where security forces recovered the remains of a German sailor executed by the notorious terror and kidnap group tied to the Islamic State, officials said.
Army Captain Jo-ann Petinglay, spokeswoman for the Western Mindanao Command, said troops clashed in the town of Talipao and killed the terrorists. “The bodies of the slain rebels had been retrieved by soldiers, including four automatic rifles and grenade launchers,” she said.
Petinglay said fighting occurred just a day after marines recovered the body and the head of Jurgen Kantner, who was decapitated by the Abu Sayyaf on February 26. The Abu Sayyaf demanded P30 million in ransom, which was not paid.
The decomposing remains were found in the village of Buanza in Indanan town, some 25 kilometers from Talipao. Kantner’s body was brought to a military hospital in the capital Jolo and was turned over to police forensic experts on Sunday.
Army Maj. Gen. Carlito Galvez, chief of the Western Mindanao Command, apologized to Kantner’s family and ordered security forces to rescue over two dozen Asian sailors still being held captive by the Abu Sayyaf in the restive region.
“Once again, the Western Mindanao Command is sending its deep regrets to the family for not being able to rescue Mr. Kantner on time and expresses its deepest sympathy to his family. Rest assured that the Armed Forces of the Philippines and the entire Western Mindanao Command will maximize all means and efforts to rescue the remaining kidnapped victims,” Galvez said.
The Palace also vowed to go after the killers.
“The Philippine government is deeply saddened but resolved as ever to respond to the recent discovery of the body of Mr. Kantner. President Duterte has declared time and again that terrorism is the twin scourge of narco-politics, and that this government will leave no stone unturned in squarely addressing the evils of extremism and plain banditry,” presidential spokesman Ernesto Abella said in a statement.
“We reiterate our sincere sympathies to the family of Mr. Kantner, as well as to the rest of the German people, for this cruelty. Rest assured these mindless acts will not go unpunished,” Abella added.
Kantner was sailing in his yacht with his wife Sabine Merz, 56, when the terrorists intercepted their boat just off Tawi-Tawi, a province in the Muslim autonomous region, in November. The Abu Sayyaf killed Merz when she tried to fight off the rebels. Her naked body was found by soldiers in the boat.
The military tagged Abu Sayyaf sub-leader Muamar Askali as behind the kidnapping and murder of the couple. Askali originally demanded P500 million in ransom for Kantner’s safe release, but lowered this to P30 million.
The government rejected the demand although it said it would not stop the German’s family from paying ransom. The Abu Sayyaf demand was made through a video released on February 14 on the Telegram messaging app, showing Kantner pleading to the German government to save his life.
In April 2014, Askali’s group also kidnapped two German yachters – Stefan Viktor Okonek, 71, and Henrike Diesen, 55, while the two were heading to Sabah from a holiday in the Philippines. The group demanded P250 million in ransom.
Askali originally demanded – on top of ransom money – Germany to stop support to the US campaign against the Islamic State which is fighting for a caliphate in Syria and Iraq. The duo was freed six months later, after the German government paid ransom through Filipino security officials.
WITH A REPORT FROM LLANESCA T. PANTI