Authorities extracting more info from video on Samal kidnap victims
ZAMBOANGA CITY, Philippines – The three foreign kidnap victims taken on September 21 from Samal Island have urged their respective governments and Philippine authorities for a halt in military operation in Sulu so that negotiations for their release could start.
In a two minute and twenty-three second video posted on YouTube by user Darthodieus on Oct. 13, Canadians Robert Hall and John Ridsdel; and Norwegian Kjartan Sekkingstad said the demand was by their captors. (Watch the full video here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?t=142&v=stWfdktDJNk)
Filipino Marites Flor was also in the video but did not talk.
The four victims were flanked by armed men, many of them covered their faces with scarves. Behind them were two black flags that resemble the ones used by Islamists in the Middle East.
“To my family and friends, I am okay but I am in grave danger. I encourage you to please contact the Canadian government and ask them, plead with them to cooperate with the Philippine government to stop the bombings and the problems going on here. I know there are people, who can find a way to do this. Please, please help us,” Hall, who was the first to speak, said.
Sekkingstad addressed his appeal to the Bangayan family, which owns the Oceanview marina that he manages.
“Please meet their demands or else we will be possibly dead,” he said.
Ridsdel, who had a machete placed near his neck by one of the captors, said “we beseech, we urge the Canadian government to please, please help us.”
Ridsdel also asked the Philippine government through the Canadian government to “help us by stopping all the military operations that are going on like the artillery fire, which came near us, and the flights over head and the bombs and military operation.”
He said negotiations for their release could only start after a stop to military operations.
“Please stop so that negotiation can start,” Ridsdel said.
One of the gunmen, who spoke in English, also said unless the operation was halted, they would not negotiate for the captives.
Brig. Gen. Allan Arrojado, commander of the Task Force Sulu, said he was uncertain if the video was taken in Sulu.
“This could be a mocked up setting in some forested area to make it appear that they are in the forest of Sulu,” Arrojado said.
Philippine Navy Commander Roy Vincent Trinidad, the chief of staff of the Naval Forces in Western Mindanao (Navforwem), told the Inquirer that they were still in the process of determining the location the video was taken from and who the armed men were.
He said the military was also looking at the possibility of identifying the person who uploaded the video on YouTube.
“We got hold of this video (on Tuesday). We are closely scrutinizing it, studying all the details and we have asked some experts to flesh out details, extract more information from the video,” Trinidad said.
Arrojado, meanwhile, said he could not just order his men to stop the military operation in the island-province without any order from the higher command.
“We are just performing our mandate and our mandate to run and fight the Abu Sayyaf Group and rescue the hostages safely,” he said, adding that the operation against the Abu Sayyaf started in 2014 yet.
He identified the center of the operation as the areas of Patikul, Indanan, Parang and Talipao.
Habib Hashim Mudjahab, chair of the Islamic Command Council, a faction of the Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF), said the captors appeared to be from Sulu as they spoke Tausug.
He pointed to one of the captors, who said “biyah magbalik (be sure to review it)” as he talked to the one taking the video.
But Mudjahab said what struck him was the way the man spoke in English.
“The presumed spokesman sounds more like a foreigner or a Filipino educated abroad. I am afraid to say this but the one who spoke English speaks good English,” Mudjahab said.
Arrojado said the spokesperson “speaks Malaysian English.”
“There is more than meets the eye and we are confident that the people we tapped to preview this can extract more details for our next move,” Trinidad said. SFM
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