We all tried our best. But to no avail’
MANILA: Islamic militants in the Philippines have beheaded the German hostage they were holding for ransom, the government in Manila said yesterday. A video posted by the Abu Sayyaf group, which was monitored by intelligence group SITE, showed Jurgen Kantner being killed by a knife-wielding man. Shortly after the video appeared, government envoy Jesus Dureza confirmed the German’s death.
“We grieve as we strongly condemn the barbaric beheading of yet another kidnap victim,” Dureza said in a statement. “Up to the last moment, many sectors including the Armed Forces of the Philippines exhausted all efforts to save his life. We all tried our best. But to no avail,” said Dureza. Military officials in the south said they had not yet found the German’s body.
In Germany, Foreign Minister Sigmar Gabriel said Berlin had not yet received official confirmation from Philippine authorities that the video was genuine. “If this video is confirmed, then of course this is one of the most horrible things imaginable,” Gabriel said. The Abu Sayyaf, blamed for the worst terror attacks in Philippine history, had demanded a ransom of 30 million pesos ($600,000) be paid by Sunday to spare the 70-year-old.
The group had previously released videos showing a haggard Kantner appealing for payment of the ransom. Kanter was abducted from his yacht, the Rockall, off the southern Philippines last year. The vessel was found drifting on November 7, with the body of Kantner’s female companion Sabine Merz with a gunshot wound. The couple had been kidnapped and held for 52 days in Somalia in 2008 before they were freed, reportedly after a huge ransom was paid, press reports said.
Despite his ordeal in Somalia, Kantner told AFP in 2009 that he still intended to keep sailing into perilous waters. “I know it’s dangerous sailing off into Somali waters and I have no private security guarding me, but I pray to God that pirates won’t get me again. It’s a little bit like suicide,” he said after being freed.
The Abu Sayyaf, whose leaders have pledged allegiance to the Islamic State group, have been kidnapping foreigners and Christians for decades and holding them for ransom in the jungles of the strife-torn southern Philippines. They have frequently killed hostages if their demands are not met, and last year murdered two Canadians.
Apart from Kantner they are now holding at least 19 foreigners and seven Filipino hostages, military spokesman Brigadier General Restituto Padilla said. The group, formed from seed money provided by a relative of Al-Qaeda mastermind Osama bin Laden in the 1990s, also carried out the bombing of a ferry in Manila Bay in 2004 that claimed 116 lives in the country’s deadliest terror attack. The military had been pressing an assault against the Abu Sayyaf, attacking their camps and bombing their hideouts just before Kantner was killed. – AFP