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Philippine militants demand $21m ransom each of 4 hostages

A combination made from undated handout photos released by Eastern Mindanao Command (EASTMINCOM) last month shows Norwegian employee Kjartan Sekkinstad, left, 56, and Canadian tourists John Ridsdel, center, 68, and Robert Hall, right,, 50, the three kidnapped foreigners who were seized by gunmen from aboard yachts just before midnight on Sept. 21 on Samal island, a short boat ride from the southern commercial center of Davao on Mindanao island. — AFP

MANILA —  A small but violent Al-Qaeda-linked militant group in the Philippines has demanded a billion pesos ($21 million) each for three men and a woman captured at a beach resort in September, one of the victims said in a video.
The men, two Canadians and a Norwegian, and the Filipino woman were shown in a video clip posted on Twitter crouching on the ground with masked men wielding machetes standing over them and threatening to kill them.
“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,” said a bearded man who identified himself as John Ridsdel, who is a mining consultant from Canada.
“I’m also being held hostage by the Abu Sayaaf group. We’re being ransomed each for one billion pesos.”
The Philippine government has a “no ransom” policy and will not negotiate with the militants, said police spokesman Chief Superintendent Wilben Mayor.
The army declined to comment but one military official said the ransom demand was “incredible.”
The hostages are believed to be held in the jungle on the southern island of Jolo, a stronghold of the Abu Sayyaf, known for bomb attacks, beheadings and kidnappings.
The one minute, 27 second video clip was posted on Twitter by the Site Intelligence Group, which tracks militant groups.
Last month, the militants released a longer video that showed the captives for the first time since they were taken, appealing to the Philippine and Canadian governments to heed rebel demands and halt an army offensive on Jolo. Ridsdel also spoke in the first video as did the two other men, who identified themselves as Robert Hall and Kjartan Sekkingstad. The woman did not speak.
The army identified the four in September as having been taken hostage.
The raid on the resort was a reminder of insecurity in the south despite a 2014 peace agreement with the largest Muslim rebel group that ended 45 years of conflict.
The Abu Sayyaf militants are holding other foreigners including one from the Netherlands, one from Japan, two from Malaysia and an Italian missionary. — Reuters

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