PROOF OF LIFE

Sayyaf’s German hostages appeal for safe release

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DECLARING that they fear for their lives, the two Germans who are being held hostage by the Abu Sayyaf Group (ASG) on Monday appealed to the governments of Germany and the Philippines to secure their immediate and safe release.

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Stefan Viktor Okonek, 71, and Herike Diesen, 55, who were abducted at sea on April 25 while en route to Sabah in Malaysia from a holiday in Palawan, were allowed by their captors to make their appeal over Radio Mindanao Network station.

Okonek, a physician by profession, said his health condition is deteriorating. He added that they sleep on the ground guarded by heavily armed men. He begged Philippines and German authorities to secure their release.

Diesen also appealed to both countries to free them, saying they are living dangerously in the jungle.

Intelligence operatives tried but failed to triangulate the origin of the calls and determine the exact location of the hostages.

Police and military operatives subsequently launched rescue operations in Sulu but they returned empty-handed.

The terrorist group has set October 10 as the deadline for Germany to comply with its ransom demand of P250 million or it will behead one of the hostages.

The demands were contained in a letter released by Abu Rami together with three photos of the hostages, a copy of which was posted on the websites worldanalysis.net and SITE Intelligence.

The victims’ appeals coincided with the order of President Benigno Aquino 3rd for the military to conduct an all-out campaign against the terrorists and stop them from their criminal activities.

“The order of the President is to stop once and for all the Abu Sayaf,” Defense Secretary Voltaire Gazmin said.

Military chief Gen. Gregorio Catapang also deployed 1,200 soldiers from the 501st Infantry Brigade and its attached units from Northern Luzon to Western Mindanao to boost the military’s strength in the Zamboanga Peninsula and Sulu.

Besides the German captives, Abu Sayyaf has other foreigners as hostages, including a 64-year-old Japanese treasure hunter Katayama Mamaito, who was kidnapped from Pangutaran Island in July 2010.

European wildlife photographers Ewold Horn, 52, from Holland and Lorenzo Vinciguerre, 47, from Switzerland, were taken captive in the coastal village of Parangan in Panglima Sugala town in southern Tawi-Tawi province two years ago.

The military estimates that there are fewer than 100 Abu Sayyaf members operating in Sulu, Basilan and Zamboanga Peninsula.

But Gazmin admitted that the military is having a hard time containing the kidnap-for-ransom group because of civilian support in its areas of operation.

“They are few but our problem is that they are being supported by civilians in the areas, that is why they can move and their daily needs are supported by ransom [paid by their kidnap victims],” he said. “The order of the President is to stop once and for all the Abu Sayaf,” Defense Secretary Voltaire Gazmin said.

Military chief Gen. Gregorio Catapang also deployed 1,200 soldiers from the 501st Infantry Brigade and its attached units from Northern Luzon to Western Mindanao to boost the military’s strength in the Zamboanga Peninsula and Sulu.

Besides the German captives, Abu Sayyaf has other foreigners as hostages, including a 64-year-old Japanese treasure hunter Katayama Mamaito, who was kidnapped from Pangutaran Island in July 2010.

European wildlife photographers Ewold Horn, 52, from Holland and Lorenzo Vinciguerre, 47, from Switzerland, were taken captive in the coastal village of Parangan in Panglima Sugala town in southern Tawi-Tawi province two years ago.
The military estimates that there are fewer than 100 Abu Sayyaf members operating in Sulu, Basilan and Zamboanga Peninsula.

But Gazmin admitted that the military is having a hard time containing the kidnap-for-ransom group because of civilian support in its areas of operation.

“They are few but our problem is that they are being supported by civilians in the areas, that is why they can move and their daily needs are supported by ransom [paid by their kidnap victims],” he said.

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