Philippine militants demand ransom for three foreigners, Filipino

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Manila (dpa) – Islamist militants in the southern Philippines have demanded more than 85 million dollars in ransom for three foreigners and a Filipino abducted from an island resort in September, according to a US-based group that tracks terrorist activities.

The Philippine military said Wednesday it was still verifying the demand, which was made in a video released by suspected Abu Sayyaf militants and circulated online by SITE Intelligence Group.

In the 87-second video that SITE obtained, Canadians John Ridsdel and Robert Hall, Norwegian Kjartan Sekkingstad and Filipino Marites Flor were seen flanked by armed men dressed in black.

One of the masked men and the foreigners said a ransom of 1 billion pesos (21.3 million dollars), the largest ever demanded by Abu Sayyaf kidnappers, must be paid for each of the four hostages for their release.

“We’re being ransomed each for 1 billion pesos,” Ridsdel said, as one of the men held a machete above his neck.

“I appeal to the Canadian prime minister and the people of Canada, please pay this ransom as soon as possible, or our lives are in great danger,” he added.

Hall also made a plea in the video, which the Philippine military has yet to authenticate.

“These people are serious and very treacherous,” he said. “Take them seriously. Help us, get us out of here.”

The hostages were seized on September 21 from a resort on the southern island of Samal Island. They were believed to have been taken to Jolo Island, 1,000 kilometres south of Manila, where they are being held captive in the jungle.

Samal Island is a prime tourism destination known for its powdery sand beaches and pristine diving spots. About 680,000 tourists visited the island last year, including nearly 30,000 foreigners.

The al-Qaeda-linked Abu Sayyaf has been blamed for some of the deadliest terrorist attacks in the Philippines. It has also been responsible for high-profile kidnappings for ransom involving foreign hostages.

Aside from the Canadians and Norwegian, the militants are also believed to be holding captive other foreigners, including a Dutch man, two Malaysians and an Italian priest.

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