Islamists in Philippines threaten to kill German hostages
Islamists in the Philippines have threatened to kill two German hostages unless Germany pays a ransom and withdraws its support for the US fight against Isis in Syria and northern Iraq.
In a message circulated via Twitter, the Abu Sayyaf terrorist group announced it would kill one of the hostages unless its demands were met within 15 days, according to US company Site Intelligence Group, which tracks communications from radical Islamist groups.
The message calls on Germany to “stop supporting America in its killing of our Muslim brothers in Iraq and Syria, especially the mujahideen of the Islamic State”.
The German pair, 71-year-old Stefan O and 55-year-old Henrike D, were reported missing in April, after their yacht was found empty in the Palawan province in the western Philippines.
In August, photographs showing the couple in front of a German flag and surrounded by masked fighters were released by Abu Sayyaf. The militant group originally demanded a ransom of 250m pesos (£3.4m) to release the hostages.
Filipino police say they suspect the couple are being held hostage near the militants’ base on Jolo island in the Sulu province in the southern Philippines.
The German government on Wednesday confirmed it was aware of the new threats and that it had set up an emergency taskforce within the foreign office which was “continuing its efforts to achieve a release”.
It said its foreign policy towards Isis would not be influenced by the incident. “Threats are not an appropriate way of influencing Germany’s policy towards Syria and northern Iraq,” a spokesperson said.
Founded in the early 1990s, the small but active Abu Sayyaf group has been listed as a terrorist organisation since 1997. It rose to prominence after the kidnapping of a group of 21 foreigners in the dive resort of Sipadan in May 2000.
Khair Mundos, a leading figure in the militant group, was arrested in June this year. The group has previously had ties to al-Qaida, though security experts say it now operates autonomously. In June, Abu Sayyaf’s leader, Isnilon Hapilon, announced his group’s support for Isis in a video circulated on the internet.
Germany is currently not directly involved in the military offensive against Isis in northern Iraq, but has pledged logistical support and called for a “political strategy” against the militant group.
Foreign minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier recently ruled out Germany participating in US-led air strikes in Iraq.
However, Germany has confirmed that it will provide logistical support for military operations in northern Iraq, including sending a squad of 40 paratroopers to train Kurdish fighters in the use of machine guns.
A shipment of arms – including 4,000 G3 rifles, 4,000 P1 pistols, 20 Milan anti-tank guns, 120 anti-tank rockets and 20 MG3 machine guns – was scheduled to fly out from Leipzig to Iraq on Wednesday.