Two Germans freed after six months of captivity in the southern Philippines by a militant group that threatened to behead one of them if ransom was not paid were flown to Manila yesterday under the care of their embassy, a Philippine military spokesman said.
Following their release on Friday, Stefan Okonek and Henrike Dielen were flown to Manila under arrangements made by the German embassy, Philippine Armed Forces Major General Domingo Tutaan said. The two have not spoken publicly about their ordeal and German diplomats could not be reached for comment.
Philippine Department of National Defense Secretary Voltaire Gazmin confirmed their released late on Friday, just hours after the Abu Sayyaf militant group had threatened to behead Okonek.
Abu Sayyaf spokesman Abu Rami told radio station DXRZ in southern Zamboanga City that his group received 250 million pesos (US$5.6 million) in ransom. He did not say who paid it.
Gazmin said he was “not privy” to information about any ransom payment, although other Philippine officials confirmed that a ransom had been paid.
“We are happy they are safe. I hope there will be no more [kidnappings],” Gazmin said by telephone.
Germany’s Federal Foreign Office thanked the Philippine government for its “close and trustful cooperation,” but did not give details on how the release came about.
Herminio Coloma, a spokesman for Philippine President Benigno Aquino III, said officials were still trying to piece together details of the release. He said there was “no change in the ‘no ransom’ policy of the government.”
“With the release from captivity of the two German nationals, our security forces will continue efforts to stem the tide of criminality perpetrated by bandit elements,” Coloma said in a statement.
Tutaan said Okonek and Dielen were brought by a Philippine navy ship to southern Zamboanga City after their release and spent the night at a military hospital there.
Abu Sayyaf gunmen seized Okonek and Dielen in April from a yacht between Malaysia’s Sabah state on Borneo and the western Philippine Province of Palawan.
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