Mindanao military officials mum on Sayyaf threats to kill hostages
SECURITY officials have kept a tight lid on the progress of military operations against the Abu Sayyaf holding several foreigners and Filipino hostages in the southern Philippines.
The Abu Sayyaf, which has pledged allegiance with the Islamic State militant group, has renewed its threat to execute two Canadians John Ridsdel and Robert Hall; and Norwegian Kjartan Sekkingstad, if their demand for ransoms is not paid.
The rebel group has issued a one month deadline for Canada and Norway to pay $ 21 million for each of the hostages. The captives have appealed – in a new video clip uploaded on Facebook - to their governments to save their lives.
The foreigners were kidnapped along with a Filipino woman Maritess Flor in September last year on Samal Island in Davao del Norte province and brought them to Sulu province where they are currently being held.
The Western Mindanao Command under General Mayoralgo dela Cruz or his spokesmen did not give any statement about the latest threat by the Abu Sayyaf to kill the hostages.
The 68- year old Ridsdel, a consultant for international miner TVI, has appealed to Canadian Prime Minister Justin Pierre James Trudeau to save him and the other hostages. Ridsdel and his companions were all shirtless and in handcuffs, and appeared frail and bearded in the video and guarded by masked gunmen – one them said they “will do something terrible against these captives.”
Hall, 60; and Sekkingstand, 56, also made a similar appeal and told their governments to get them all out fast. The woman did not speak.
Last year, authorities have arrested two of 11 gunmen who stormed Holiday Ocean View Resort in Samal and one of them has been identified as Bandahar Adona alias Banon.
Military forces are still struggling to search for the hostages.
Canada has already warned its citizens from travelling to some parts of the southern Philippines due to the serious threat of terrorist attacks and kidnapping and these included Basilan, Sulu, Tawi- Tawi, Lanao del Sur and Maguindanao provinces in the Muslim autonomous region, as well as to the Zamboanga Peninsula and the provinces of Sarangani, Lanao del Norte, Davao del Norte, Davao del Sur, Davao Occidental, Davao Oriental, Cotabato, South Cotabato, and Sultan Kudarat.
Just last year, police authorities in Sulu province set up a special anti- kidnapping task force to address the threats of kidnappings and abductions there.
Governor Totoh Tan has previously said that many kidnapped victims were taken from other provinces and cities only to bring and hide them in Sulu, dragging the province to a situation that gives a bad impression to the local peace and order situation.
But while local government officials and multi- sectoral sectors work hand in hand to address the rising criminality and the threats posed by the Abu Sayyaf, other groups with political agenda have resorted in spreading false reports of kidnappings and killings and other black propaganda in social media, including Facebook, to further scare the public and destroy the reputation of different leaders in Sulu.
Locals have condemned and others protested the spate of kidnappings in Sulu and some also launched online campaign in social media to denounce the kidnappings in the province .
Police and military have since then tightened security on Samal Island, a favorite destination of foreigners and Filipino holidaymakers in southern Philippines because of its pristine beaches and diving and snorkeling sites.