Abu Sayyaf agrees to free Australian

Warren Rodwell was kidnapped in December 2011

DECEMBER VIDEO. A screen shot of the video of Richard Rodwell posted on Facebook in December 2012.

MANILA, Philippines – Kidnappers of Australian Warren Richard Rodwell have agreed to release him Thursday, March 21, two senior intelligence officials told Rappler.

As of 7 pm, “negotiations” for Rodwell’s release “are over…and he might be released” to a local Basilan official in Barangay Cabangalan, in the remote town of Tipo Tipo, according to a military intelligence officer.

The Abu Sayyaf kidnapped Rodwell, 54, from his home in Ipil, Zamboanga del Sur on Dec 5, 2011. The kidnap group initially set a P1-million ransom, but raised it to US$2-M by early 2012.

According to another intelligence official, local officials and the police are “just working on the process to transfer custody” from kidnappers to local executives. As of posting, however, our sources said Rodwell was not yet in the hands of the local executives.

In December last year, accounts on Facebook and YouTube posted and shared a video of Rodwell, holding a copy of the Philippine Daily Inquirer from Saturday, Dec. 15, 2012. Wearing a black t-shirt, his hair is cropped short, his cheeks sunken. He spoke with a weary air.

“This video clip today is to say that I am alive,” Rodwell tells the camera. “I am waiting to be released. I have no idea what’s going on outside. I am just being held in isolation.”

He added: “I do not expect to be released before the year 2013 at the earliest. I personally hold no hope at all for being released. I do not trust the Abu Sayyaf. I do not trust the Australian government.”

Sources in western and Philippine intelligence earlier told Rappler negotiations have been difficult largely because it’s unclear who will lead it. Leadership has shifted, and there seem to be differing goals and tactics employed by at least two agencies: the Australian Federal Police and the Australian Secret Intelligence Service.

Excluding Rodwell, there are 7 foreigners in the hands of kidnappers in Mindanao — one Japanese, one Swiss, one Dutch, one Jordanian and 3 Malaysians.

Last February 2, kidnappers released the TV crew of Jordanian journalist Baker Atyani of the Dubai-based Al Arabiya network. The ASG released Atyani’s cameraman Ramil Vela and audio technician Roland “Buboy” Letrero on Jolo island; but Atyani remains in captivity. The 3 were kidnapped in June 2012. – Rappler.com

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