Hostages appeal in video for halt to Philippine military operations

A screenshot from the video posted online, showing Robert Hall (left) and John Ridsdel.
A screenshot from the video posted online, showing Robert Hall (left) and John Ridsdel.YOUTUBE
Militants hide their faces in a screenshot from the online video.
Militants hide their faces in a screenshot from the online video.YOUTUBE
Abducted foreigners Kjartan Sekkingstad (left), a Norwegian national, John Ridsdel (centre photos) of Canada and his compatriot Robert Hall.
Abducted foreigners Kjartan Sekkingstad (left), a Norwegian national, John Ridsdel (centre photos) of Canada and his compatriot Robert Hall.REUTERS

MANILA (REUTERS) - Two Canadians, a Norwegian, and a Filipino woman have appealed by video to the Philippines to stop military operations and to Canada to negotiate for their freedom with Islamist militants who abducted them.

The four were snatched at gunpoint by 11 gunmen, believed to be Al-Qaeda-linked Islamist militants, at an upmarket resort on Samar island in the Philippines on Sept 21 and taken to an unknown location in the south.

"Please, stop all these operations so that negotiations can start," said a man, who introduced himself as John Ridsdel on the clip circulating on YouTube, while a machete was brandished behind his head by a militant, who was also holding him.

The man said there had been artillery fire nearby, flights overhead and bombings and asked that they be stopped.

The military operations could not be independently verified.

Authorities on Tuesday declined to comment on the video, saying they will have to validate the authenticity of the material.

Asked about the video, a Canadian foreign ministry spokesman said the government is “pursuing all appropriate channels to seek further information.”

Another captive, who introduced himself as Robert Hall, also appealed to stop the bombings, saying his life was in grave danger.

A third man who introduced himself Kjartan Sekkingstad was also asked to plead for their lives.

The woman seated beside Hall did not speak.

The four were identified by the Philippines army in September as having been taken hostage.

This was the first video since they were taken.

All of them were shown to be sitting in a jungle while the militants with covered faces held rifles and machetes, and shouted "Allahu akbar" (God is greatest) at the end of the 2min 22 sec video uploaded to YouTube.

The militants' leader spoke fluent English, demanding the artillery attacks be halted and the negotiation of the release of the hostages.

It was unusual for Islamist militant leaders in the south to speak good English.

The video had been uploaded on some Middle Eastern websites.

The leader did not identify what group they belonged to or their location.

There has been speculation they had been taken hundreds of miles west to Jolo island, a stronghold of Abu Sayyaf, a small but violent Islamist militant group, known for bomb attacks, kidnappings and beheadings in the southern Philippines.

But army and police officials have previously denied the report, and the authorities could not say on Tuesday whether the hostages were taken to the island.

Kidnappings are not uncommon in the Philippines.

Last week, an Italian missionary who was operating a pizza shop was also abducted.

A local official kidnapped six months ago was released on Monday night.