ZAMBOANGA CITY (Philippine Daily Inquirer, The Star/Asia News Network) - The Sulu-based Abu Sayyaf claimed it was holding hostage a 70-year old German national, weeks after the bandit group released a Norwegian hostage apparently upon payment of a hefty ransom.
Muammar Askali alias Abu Ramie, a self-proclaimed spokesman of the Abu Sayyaf, said the group was able to snatch two German tourists in Tawi-tawi, the country's southernmost province.
"Unfortunately, the other one died. She tried to shoot us, so we shot her. She died," Askali said in a brief phone conversation on Sunday morning.
During the phone call, Askali allowed the group's new captive to talk to the Inquirer. The man introduced himself as Juegen Kantner, 70. He identified his female companion only as Sabine.
Kantner said they were taken at gunpoint at Tanjung Pisut in Tawi-tawi.
"Pirates took our boat and they took us. We asked help from the embassy to help us," he told the Inquirer.
The military confirmed later on Monday the recovery of a body inside an abandoned yacht in Sulu. The body was identified as that of his wife, Ms Sabine Merz.
Major Filemon Tan Jr., spokesperson of Western Mindanao Command, said the body was found by a civilian around 6am on Sunday near Laparan Island, Pangutaran, Sulu. He said the body had gunshot wounds.
The couple is exceptionally unlucky as this is not the first time he has been kidnapped.
They were steering their yacht through the dangerous Gulf of Aden in June 2008 when armed Somali pirates captured them and held them captive for 52 days in their mountain hideout.
A German newspaper reported that they was freed after US$600,000 was paid to the Somalis but Kantner declined to elaborate on the circumstances of his release.
"It was my worst experience ever. It was really painful and they were intimidating us the whole time.
"One day I said to them I hoped a plane would bomb us all to bits, so that we all die together," Kantner told The Local.
In May 2009, Kantner and his wife returned to Somalia to reclaim their yacht despite being ridiculed by residents in Berbera, a Somali port in pirate-infested Gulf of Aden.
"They think that I'm insane, they call me the crazy white guy or the mad German sailor but they don't know how important my boat is to me," he said.
He then claimed that he will start sailing again after he had finished mending his yacht.
His abduction by the Abu Sayyaf followed the kidnapping of two Indonesian fishermen over the weekend.
Eastern Sabah Security commander Wan Abdul Bari Wan Khalid said five armed men abducted the two fishing boat captains in separate raids on the high seas off Sandakan.
The armed men took the skippers, aged 52 and 46, on a speedboat at 11am and 11.45am, respectively, but left the crew behind. The gunmen also stole the crew's handphones and the GPS systems on the boats.
Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte is expected to discuss possible joint security operations with Malaysian Prime Minister Najib Razak during his visit to Malaysia this week.
The Abu Sayyaf is a loose network of militants formed in Mindanao in the 1990s with seed money from Osama bin Laden's al-Qaeda network.
The group has earned millions of dollars from kidnappings-for-ransom.
Military sources said the Abu Sayyaf were currently holding a Dutch, five Malaysians, two Indonesians and four Filipinos in their jungle stronghold.