Militant group lets couple go after receiving $7 million ransom

Militant group lets couple go after receiving $7 million ransom
The two German hostages had been abducted by the Philippine Islamist militant group Abu Sayyaf.

KOTA KINABALU, Malaysia - The Abu Sayyaf has released the two German captives - Viktor Stefan Okonek and Henrite Dielen - after receiving the 250mil pesos (S$7mil) ransom in full, according to Philippines media reports.

Okonek, 71, was supposed to have been executed yesterday.

The country's armed forces chief Gen Gregorio Pio Catapang confirmed the release of the Germans.

"They are now at Camp Bautista for transport to Camp Navarro," he told the Philippines Daily Inquirer in a text message.

Camp Bautista is located in Sulu while Camp Navarro in Zamboanga City.

Abu Sayyaf spokesman Abu Rami said the couple was freed at 8.45pm yesterday in Patikul town in Sulu.

Rami said the ransom was paid in full, "walang labis, walang kulang (no more, no less in Filipino)."

The Abu Sayyaf had initially threatened to behead one of the German hostages if two of its demands were not met by 3pm.

But after the Philippines military beefed up its numbers around the hideout, the terror group extended the beheading deadline by two more hours as negotiations went on, the local reports said.

Earlier reports quoted one Al Kataib, an aide to Rami, as saying yesterday that the group received some money before the 5pm deadline.

Besides the ransom, the group had also demanded that Germany immediately stop supporting the American-led air strikes against Islamic State militants in Syria and Iraq for the release Okonek and his partner Herike Diesen, 55.

The two were snatched from their yacht while sailing from Palawan island in southern Philippines to Sabah on April 25 and kept in an Abu Sayyaf hideout around Patikul in Jolo island.

Although Al Kataib did not say how much money the group received and from whom, the reports quoted a government source as saying Abu Sayyaf agreed to postpone the beheading of Okonek after an estimated amount of 60 million pesos was delivered as partial payment of the ransom demand.

Al Kataib said Rami was expected to provide more details in due time. Okonek was reportedly made to sit in a deep hole which the Abu Sayyaf had dug as his grave.


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