2 days before 'deadline,' Abu Sayyaf steps up pressure on German hostages

MANILA, Philippines – Two days before its deadline to authorities, the Abu Sayyaf Group (ASG) stepped up pressure on its two German hostages held in Sulu, posting photos of one of them on social media and putting him on the radio.

In exchange for the hostages' release, the terrorist group is demanding a P250-million (about $5.5 million) ransom for the release of Stefan Viktor Okonek and Henrike Dielen, as well as Germany's withdrawal from the US-led war on the jihadi group ISIS.

The photos posted on Wednesday, October 15, showed 71-year-old Okonek sitting in the middle of a freshly dug grave while 4 masked men point their rifles at him. The kidnappers were carrying the black flag that was first associated with the Al Qaeda and now the ISIS.

"Abu Sayyaf behead this German  national on Oct. 17, 2014, at exactly 3:00p.m if they can't avail our demands," reads the social media post.

The ASG also put Okonek, a medical doctor, on radio via RMN in Zamboanga City. "Im sitting here in a hole. They digged a hole, 3 meters by 1.5 meters. They told me it is my grave. They pushed me inside the hole and Im sitting with 10 men around me," Okonek told RMN. "Please do everything to get us out here."

The other hostage is Henrike Dielen, 55.

The two were on a holiday, on board a yacht, when they were taken by the Abu Sayyaf in April 2014 off Palawan province.

"Please do everything to get us out here," Okonek told RMN. "I don't know how she is," he said. Asked if he thinks he will be released, Okonek managed to laugh. "Very good question. I hope so."

Military deployment

The fresh threat came days after the Philippine military deployed additional troops to Sulu. There are now 7 battalions – 5 Marines and 2 Army – deployed to the island. A company size of K-9 tracking unit was also deployed to help hunt down the local terrorists.

Last month, the hostages aired their appeal to Philippine and German governments – again through RMN.

But the German government earlier said that while it received "the report" about the Abu Sayyaf's demand for the country's withdrawal from the campaign against ISIS, it stressed that "threats are not an appropriate way to influence our policy in Syria and Iraq." 

LOYALTY TO THE ISLAMIC STATE. Senior Abu Sayyaf leader Isnilon Hapilon swears allegiance to ISIS

LOYALTY TO THE ISLAMIC STATE.

Senior Abu Sayyaf leader Isnilon Hapilon swears allegiance to ISIS

The Abu Sayyaf has been behind a spate of kidnappings and terrorist activities in Muslim provinces in Mindanao. Its leaders have pledged allegiance to ISIS.

On July 23, a video of senior Abu Sayyaf leader Isnilon Hapilon along with masked men was posted on YouTube. Using a combination of his native dialect, Yakan, and Arabic, Hapilon and his men swear allegiance or “bay’ah,” an oath, to ISIS and its head, Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi.

Hapilon carries a reward of up to $5 million from the US Rewards for Justice Program. He was indicted in the District of Columbia for “terrorist acts against United States nationals and other foreign nationals.” – with reports from Richard Falcatan/Rappler.com