Philippine militants release video of German’s beheading

MANILA, Philippines (AP) — Abu Sayyaf extremists in the Philippines released a video showing the beheading of a German hostage in the first sign the brutal Philippine militants carried out a threat to kill him after a ransom deadline lapsed over the weekend.

Authorities were trying to confirm whether or not Jurgen Gustav Kantner, whom the extremists said they captured in November, had been killed.

The brief video circulated Monday by the SITE Intelligence Group, which monitors jihadi websites, shows Kantner sitting in a grassy clearing and saying “Now he kill me” shortly before a masked militant beheads him with a curved knife.

A few gunmen mutter “Allahu Akbar,” or “God is great,” in the video that lasts a minute and 43 seconds.

The militants threatened to kill him mid-afternoon Sunday if a ransom of 30 million pesos (US$605,000) was not paid, Philippine officials said.

The Philippine military said it would not confirm Kantner’s death unless it sees the captive’s remains or other compelling evidence. Military spokesman Brigadier General Restituto Padilla said he “will not dignify that video by watching it.”

“They can shout and claim whatever they want but we will not rely on this,” Padilla said, adding an ongoing offensive against the Abu Sayyaf and attempts to rescue foreign and local hostages held by the militants would continue.

The military receiving information about infighting within Abu Sayyaf, with some militants preferring to wait for a huge ransom and a more hardline commander demanding that the German be killed as the militants had announced, Padilla said, without elaborating.

In Germany, Foreign Ministry spokesman Martin Schaefer said German experts were evaluating the video to determine whether it was authentic, but that if it was, it’s “deeply shocking.”

“It makes you question what can lead people to commit such a barbaric crime, but, at the moment, I’m not in a position to say whether the video’s authentic,” he said.

He would not give any details on possible negotiations with the kidnappers, including whether there was a ransom demand, citing government policy and saying that “public comment never helps in finding a solution” in such cases.

Abu Sayyaf claimed in November that its gunmen had kidnapped Kantner and killed a woman sailing with him off neighbouring Malaysia’s Sabah state. Villagers later found a dead woman on a yacht with the German flag off Laparan Island in Sulu province in the southern Philippines, the military said.

Kantner and his partner, Sabine Merz, were taken hostage by Somali pirates in 2008 and later freed, officials said.

The Abu Sayyaf, which the US and the Philippines have blacklisted as a terrorist organisation, is holding more than 20 mostly foreign captives and local hostages in jungle encampments in the country’s south. They beheaded two Canadian men last year after separate ransom deadlines lapsed.

President Rodrigo Duterte’s adviser who deals with Muslim rebel groups, Jesus Dureza, has appealed to the Abu Sayyaf to spare their hostages.

Duterte has ordered troops to destroy the Abu Sayyaf extremists, saying their ransom kidnappings were embarrassing and were creating a security alarm in the waters bordering the south, Malaysia and Indonesia. The three countries have made efforts to jointly shore up security along their busy sea border.

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