In a jarring video that surfaced this week, several foreigners plead for their countries to pay ransom to the Abu Sayyaf Islamist group to secure their release — or else, they say, they’ll be killed in a month.
Two men speaking on the video said they were hostages and Canadian citizens. One said he was “being held by Abu Sayyaf for ransom,” although he didn’t know how much.
“I appeal for my life,” the other said, while a militant held a large knife to his neck with one hand and clenched his chin with the other. “… Please do what’s needed to meet their demands within one month or they will kill me, and they will execute us.”
The Canadian government said later that it knew about the video, but wouldn’t elaborate further.
“The government of Canada will not comment or release any information which may compromise ongoing efforts or endanger the safety of Canadian citizens,” the brief statement said.
The authenticity of the video, or the legitimacy of the hostage-takers’ claims has not been verified.
These included words from one masked man, surrounded by others who, like him, were armed, who urged other countries to “stop procrastinating,” giving them until April 8 to act.
If they don’t, he said, “I’ll do something terrible against these captives.”
The two purported Canadians were among three male hostages who spoke English on the latest video, which was originally posted to Facebook. Another apparent hostage, a woman, is also visible.
These appear to be the same four people (three foreign men and one Filipina woman) abducted the evening of September 21 at the Oceanview Resort on Samal Island, which lies off the coast of the major southern island of Mindanao, as reported by the official Philippines News Agency.
This part of the southern Philippines is home for Abu Sayyaf, an Islamist militant group that’s been linked to al Qaeda. The separatist group has at times preyed on foreigners in recent years, taking them hostage to further its aims.
A few weeks after the September abduction, video came out showing four hostages surrounded by masked, heavily armed militants and banners that appear to be ISIS flags, or jihadist flags which are very similar in appearance to the infamous black-and-white standard.
Canada’s foreign affairs department said officials were “in close contact with Filipino authorities and have been pursuing all appropriate channels to seek further information.”
And the Norwegian government said it knew of that video but would not comment, beyond saying it was working with the government of the Philippines.
Around that time, a spokesman for the Philippine army told journalists in October that authorities had seen the video released that month but that he couldn’t divulge operational details or shed light on the kidnappers’ identity.
“Our … posture remains, where our troops are, where our police are, they will remain to be where they are,” Col. Restituto Padilla said then, indicating the abductors hadn’t asked for ransom.
Yet the new video out this week suggests that not only have demands been made, but a firm deadline has been set to meet them.
“This is the last message,” said the third man, the only one not to identify himself as Canadian. “… Follow the negotiations and try to meet their demands.”