Ger­man sailors ab­ducted, killed in Philip­pines

Kuwait Times - - INTERNATIONAL -

Is­lamic mil­i­tants who spe­cial­ize in kid­nap­pings-for-ran­som have re­ported killing a Ger­man sailor and ab­duct­ing her el­derly male com­pan­ion from their yacht in wa­ters off the south­ern Philip­pines, the mil­i­tary said yes­ter­day. A com­man­der from the Abu Sayyaf group, which has earned many mil­lions of dol­lars by kid­nap­ping for­eign­ers and be­headed oth­ers af­ter ran­som de­mands were not met, claimed re­spon­si­bil­ity for the lat­est in­ci­dents, re­gional mil­i­tary spokesman File­mon Tan said. Tan said the mil­i­tary had re­cov­ered the cou­ple’s yacht, and the body of a naked white woman who had been shot was aboard.

He said the mil­i­tary had lis­tened to an au­dio record­ing of a known Abu Sayyaf leader claim­ing re­spon­si­bil­ity for the raid on the yacht, and the ab­ducted Ger­man man also spoke on the phone call.The ab­ducted man iden­ti­fied him­self as Jur­gen Kant­ner, aged 70, and his com­pan­ion as Sabine, ac­cord­ing to Tan. It ap­peared the vic­tims were the same as those ab­ducted by So­mali pi­rates off the Gulf of Aden and held hostage for 52 days in 2008. AFP in­ter­viewed Kant­ner and his wife, Sabine Merz, in 2009 about their or­deal when they re­turned to So­ma­lia to re­trieve their boat, named the Rock­all. De­spite be­ing sub­jected to a mock ex­e­cu­tion dur­ing his or­deal, Kant­ner said the threat of kid­nap­ping would never stop him from sail­ing.

“My boat is my life and I don’t want to lose her, noth­ing more. I don’t care about pi­rates and govern­ments,” Kant­ner said in the 2009 in­ter­view from Ber­bera, the main port in So­ma­liland. The Philip­pine mil­i­tary re­leased a photo yes­ter­day of the Rock­all and said it had a Ger­man flag on it. Tan said the pass­ports of Kant­ner and Merz were found on the Rock­all. He said the photo in Merz’s pass­port ap­peared to match the body of the dead woman aboard, although her iden­tity still needed to be con­firmed. In Ber­lin, the Ger­man gov­ern­ment said it did not com­ment on kid­nap­pings of its na­tion­als abroad.

Grow­ing threat

The Abu Sayyaf, a loose net­work of mil­i­tants based on re­mote is­lands in the south­ern Philip­pines, has de­fied more than a decade of US-backed mil­i­tary of­fen­sives against it and been on a lu­cra­tive kid­nap­ping spree in re­cent years. In 2014, the mil­i­tants ab­ducted an­other Ger­man cou­ple off a yacht in the south­ern Philip­pines. They re­leased the pair six months later af­ter re­ceiv­ing what they said was the full ran­som de­mand of 250 mil­lion pe­sos ($5.1 mil­lion).

The Abu Sayyaf be­headed two Cana­dian men this year af­ter de­mands for mil­lions of dol­lars were not met. The Abu Sayyaf is also blamed for kid­nap­ping dozens of In­done­sian and Malaysian sailors in the wa­ters off the south­ern Philip­pines near where the Rock­all was raided. Most of those sailors were re­leased af­ter ran­soms were re­port­edly paid. How­ever some are still be­ing held and an­other two In­done­sian fish­er­men were ab­ducted off Malaysia’s east­ern Sabah state, a fa­vorite Abu Sayyaf hunt­ing ground, on the week­end. Je­sus Dureza, a top se­cu­rity aide to Pres­i­dent Ro­drigo Duterte, said Mon­day the Abu Sayyaf was be­lieved to be hold­ing the In­done­sians on their south­ern is­land strongholds. The Philip­pine mil­i­tary launched a mil­i­tary of­fen­sive against the Abu Sayyaf af­ter Duterte vowed in Au­gust to elim­i­nate the group. But the Abu Sayyaf has con­tin­ued to carry out raids ap­par­ently with­out hin­drance, with the poorly equipped Philip­pine Navy and Coast Guard un­able to po­lice the vast ex­panse of wa­ter. For­eign­ers typ­i­cally stay away from the far south­ern Philip­pine is­lands be­cause of the kid­nap­ping threat. How­ever Is­lamic mil­i­tants are also plan­ning to kid­nap for­eign­ers in tourist hotspots of the cen­tral Philip­pines, roughly 500 kilo­me­ters from the Abu Sayyaf’s bases, the US gov­ern­ment warned last week—

— AFP

LAPARAN, Philip­pines: This un­dated hand­out photo shows navy per­son­nel aboard the yatch Rock­all af­ter it was re­cov­ered in Laparan is­land in Sulu prov­ince in the south­ern is­land of Min­danao. Is­lamic mil­i­tants who spe­cial­ize in kid­nap­ping for ran­som have re­ported killing a Ger­man sailor.

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