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Saturday, April 16, 2016

Abu Sayyaf threatens to kill hostage on April 25 if...

A week after first deadline runs out, four victims appeal to their govts to pay ransom

Two Canadians, a Norwegian and a Filipino kidnapped last September by Abu Sayyaf militants in the Philippines are still alive, a week after a deadline for payment of their ransom passed.

But in a two-minute video viewed by The Straits Times, the hostages are shown asking their governments to pay 900 million pesos (S$26.5 million) by a new deadline of 3pm on April 25.

"We were told that this is the absolute, final warning… (This is) our final urgent appeal to the governments... and to our Canadian families," Mr John Ridsdell, 68, says in the video, as a large knife is held across his neck.

"If 300 million pesos is not paid for me, they will behead me."

His fellow Canadian, Mr Robert Hall, 50, also appealed to the Canadian and Philippine governments to pay 300 million pesos for his safe release.

The Norwegian, Mr Kjartan Sekkingstad, 56, said his ransom was 300 million pesos as well. The Filipino hostage, Ms Maritess Flor, 40, was not allowed to speak.

Towards the end of the video, a hooded figure, presumably the group's spokesman, says: "(This is a) notice to the families and to the Canadian government and to the Philippine government. Now, the deadline of warning is over last April 8, 2016, but still you procrastinate. Now, this is already an ultimatum."

He also says that if their demand for ransom is not met, they would be beheading "one of among these four" starting April 25, "at exactly 3pm".

The four hostages were taken on Sept 21 last year from the Holiday Oceanview Samal resort in the strife-torn Philippine island of Mindanao.

A message in a video posted earlier by the group holding them - said to be the "Tanum sub-group" - had threatened to execute the hostages on April 8.

The Abu Sayyaf, which has pledged allegiance to the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS) militant group, is a small but violent band of extremists known for extortions, kidnappings, beheadings and bombings.

It was formed by disgruntled Moro Islamic fighters in 1991, with Al-Qaeda funding.

Efforts to rescue the four hostages had been complicated by a military offensive against Abu Sayyaf chieftain Isnilon Hapilon on April 9 that left 18 soldiers dead in the worst violence in the Philippines' troubled south this year.

More than 20 militants were killed, according to the military.

ISIS claimed responsibility for the clash, and insisted that only three of its fighters died.

By Raul Dancel

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