Friday 30 September 2016

Norwegian hostage freed after a year by extremists in Philippines

Published 17/09/2016 | 14:46

Moro National Liberation Front chairman Nur Misuari (AP)
Moro National Liberation Front chairman Nur Misuari (AP)

Ransom-seeking Abu Sayyaf extremists have freed a Norwegian man kidnapped a year ago in the southern Philippines

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Kjartan Sekkingstad was kidnapped along with two Canadians who were later beheaded and a Filipino woman who has been released.

He was freed in Patikul town in Sulu province on Saturday and was eventually secured by rebels from the larger Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF), which has signed a peace deal with the government and helped negotiate his release, officials said.

Mr Sekkingstad, held in jungle captivity since being kidnapped last September, was to stay overnight at the house of MNLF chairman Nur Misuari in Sulu and then meet with Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte on Sunday, said Jesus Dureza, who advises Mr Duterte on peace talks with insurgent groups.

A plan to fly the newly-freed Norwegian out of Sulu, a jungle-clad Muslim region about 590 miles south of Manila, was cancelled on Saturday because of bad weather, Mr Dureza said.

It was not immediately clear whether Mr Sekkingstad was ransomed off.

Mr Duterte suggested in a news conference last month that a huge ransom had been paid to the militants but they continued to hold on to him anyway.

The military said that relentless assaults forced the extremists to release the hostage.

Canadian John Ridsdel was beheaded in April and his compatriot Robert Hall was decapitated in June after huge ransom demands were not met.

The Filipino woman was freed before Mr Duterte came to power on June 30.

Government forces launched a major offensive against the militants after the beheadings of the Canadians sparked condemnations from then-Philippine President Benigno Aquino III and Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau.

AP

Press Association

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