A Muslim militant group in the southern Philippines that has pledged allegiance to the Islamic State group threatened to behead Monday four hostages, including two Canadian businessmen. Abu Sayyaf, or Bearer of the Sword, said it would behead the hostages if it did not receive a ransom of of 300 million pesos (US$6.4 million) for each victim.
The hostages were abducted last year from a tourist resort on Samal Island in Davao del Norte province. They are reportedly being held at a makeshift Abu Sayyaf camp on a nearby island. They are Canadian mining consultant John Ridsdel, 68; fellow Canadian Robert Hall, 50, and his Filipino girlfriend, Marites Flor; and Kjartan Sekkingstad, a Norwegian native who worked as the manager of the resort where they were abducted. The militant group initially asked for a ransom of a billion pesos for each victim last year.
Brig. Gen. Restituto Padilla said intelligence indicates the hostages were alive as of Saturday, the Associated Press reported. “Maximum efforts are being exerted … to effect the rescue,” the military and police said in a joint statement.
Abu Sayyaf was funded by Osama bin Laden and formed by his brother-in-law in 1992 in the predominantly Roman Catholic nation. The violent group has beheaded or fatally shot many hostages in the past. The group is also known for carrying out kidnappings and bombings, the Bangkok Post reported.
In recent months, Abu Sayyaf has abducted 10 Indonesian sailors from a cargo ship, kidnapped four Malaysian sailors from another ship and abducted four other Indonesians. More recently, it beheaded last week two Filipino hostages who worked as guards at a local sawmill. The group had declared the guards “spies.”
An April 15 video from the militants showed the Canadian hostages with machetes held to their necks. “This is already an ultimatum,” a masked militant says. “We will certainly behead one of these four.” Two black flags can be seen in the background.
Days later, Abu Sayyaf announced allegiance to the Islamic State group on April 19, becoming the largest Asian terrorist group to express loyalty with the so-called “caliphate” led by Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi. The militant group based in Syria and Iraq is also referred to ISIS or ISIL.