Hostages, including Norwegian held for a year, freed in Philippines

MANILA, Sept. 18 (UPI) — Four Abu Sayyaf hostages, including a Norwegian man who has been held for almost a year, were freed this weekend.

Kjartan Sekkingstad was retrieved from the southwestern city of Jolo by Secretary Jesus Dureza, an advisor who works as a liaison with Muslim and communist insurgents on the peace process. Sekkingstad and the Indonesians were flown Sunday to meet Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte in Davao City, military officials said.

Sekkingstad was among four abducted in Sept. 2015 from a southern Philippines resort. Two of those abducted were beheaded and a third was freed earlier this year, the Wall Street Journal reported

Also released were three Indonesian hostages from two locations in Luuk municipality, Sulu Province, the Sulu Philippine National Police confirmed. They were identified by police as Lorence Koten, Theo Doros Kofong and Emanuel Arakian, CNN Philippines reported.

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The Indonesians were turned over by Moro National Liberation Front leader Nur Misuari. Military spokesman Brig. Gen. Restituto Padilla said the three Indonesians had been kidnapped recently.

While there were rumors the victims were released after paying 20 million in Philippine pesos, the equivalent of $42 million, Padilla said he was unaware of any ransom paid in exchange for the captives’ release.

“What we do know is that we have been concentrating on the launch of all our operations and all our activities on the ground have been indicative of the increasing pressure felt by these groups,” Padilla said.

He also said the “relentless and focused military operations” have had a “great impact” on the release of the hostages.

Maj. Filemon Tan Jr., a spokesman of Western Mindanao Command, said the Indonesians were abducted July 9 off Lahad Datu, Sabah and taken by Abu Sayyaf to Sulu, Philstar Global reported.

“There was no immediate detail as to the circumstances of their release except that they were reportedly freed by their Abu Sayyaf captors,” he said.

Tan said five more Indonesians remain the hands of Abu Sayyaf.

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