Abu Sayyaf beheads German hostage

Philippine soldiers manning a checkpoint in Sulu yesterday. The province is home to the Abu Sayyaf, a group notorious for holding Filipinos and foreigners alike for ransom. Still, the Philippine Foreign Secretary says the country will stick to its to
Philippine soldiers manning a checkpoint in Sulu yesterday. The province is home to the Abu Sayyaf, a group notorious for holding Filipinos and foreigners alike for ransom. Still, the Philippine Foreign Secretary says the country will stick to its tough no-ransom policy.PHOTO: EUROPEAN PRESSPHOTO AGENCY
Philippine soldiers manning a checkpoint in Sulu yesterday. The province is home to the Abu Sayyaf, a group notorious for holding Filipinos and foreigners alike for ransom. Still, the Philippine Foreign Secretary says the country will stick to its to
A video released yesterday showed Mr Jurgen Kantner in a jungle clearing before his head was sawed off.
Left: A video released yesterday showed Mr Jurgen Kantner (above) in a jungle clearing before his head was sawed off.
A video released yesterday showed Mr Jurgen Kantner (above) in a jungle clearing before his head was sawed off.

Militants post video purportedly of the killing, after ransom talks break down

Islamist militants in the Philippines have beheaded an elderly German man after talks for his release, in exchange for a 30 million peso (S$854,000) ransom, collapsed.

Mr Jurgen Kantner, 70, was abducted from his yacht on Nov 6 last year, in waters off Sabah. His wife, Ms Sabine Merz, 59, was killed during the abduction.

Both had previously been held for nearly two months by Somali pirates in 2008 before being freed, reportedly after payment of a six-figure ransom.

A nearly two-minute video released by the Abu Sayyaf group yesterday on social media app Telegram showed Mr Kantner's execution.

He is believed to have been killed by an Abu Sayyaf band led by Muammar Askali, alias Abu Rami.

In the video, Mr Kantner is kneeling in a jungle clearing, with his hands tied behind his back. Appearing disoriented and wearing a flak jacket over a black shirt, grey pants and sandals, he can be heard talking to three or four men about making a video.

Seconds later, the militant standing behind him grabs his hair, pulls his head back and begins sawing it off with a large, sickle-shaped machete as the other men chant "God is great".

Mr Kantner's last words were: "Now he's going to kill me."

A police report released on Sunday said Mr Kantner was killed at around 3.30pm that day in the town of Indanan, in Sulu province, 1,500km south of Manila.

In a statement yesterday, the government's peace adviser and chief hostage negotiator Jesus Dureza confirmed the beheading.

"We grieve, as we strongly condemn the barbaric beheading of yet another kidnap victim," said Mr Dureza.

"Up to the last moment, many sectors… exhausted all efforts to save his life. We all tried our best, but to no avail."

Foreign Secretary Perfecto Yasay said on the sidelines of the United Nations Human Rights Council in Geneva that the Philippines would stick to its tough no-ransom policy.

German Foreign Minister Sigmar Gabriel said Berlin had not yet received official confirmation from the Philippine authorities that the video was genuine.

"If this video is confirmed, then of course this is one of the most horrible things imaginable," he said.

Sabah is near Sulu, a province that is home to the Abu Sayyaf. The group has become notorious for kidnapping foreigners and Filipinos for ransom.

Mr Kantner's wife, Ms Merz, had been beaten to death, purportedly when she grabbed a shotgun to fight off an attempt to rape her.

The couple had been sailing for many years aboard their 53-footer, the Rockall.

Security officials said they would continue searching until they could recover Mr Kantner's remains.

He is the latest foreigner the Abu Sayyaf has murdered.

Despite his ordeal in Somalia, Mr Kantner told Agence France- Presse in 2009 that he still intended to keep sailing in perilous waters.

"I know it's dangerous sailing off into Somali waters and I have no private security guarding me, but I pray to God that pirates won't get me again," he said then.

"It's a little bit like suicide."

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on February 28, 2017, with the headline 'Abu Sayyaf beheads German hostage'. Print Edition | Subscribe